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Champions League Group G preview: Must win clash for Benfica, Spartak

Benfica and Spartak Moscow will both be desperate for victory when they face off in Group G of the UEFA Champions League.

Both sides are winless after two group-stage games but will know they have a big chance to reel in Celtic as the Scottish Premier League champions are unlikely to have much success away to Barcelona in the other Group G match.

Benfica have one point, while Spartak have none, but a win for either team would put pressure on Celtic, who sit second on four points.

But Tuesday’s match looms as an interesting tussle as Spartak, who have conceded six goals in two Champions League matches, host Benfica, who have yet to score in the European competition this season.

It has been 15 matches since Spartak last kept a clean sheet, when they defeated Dinamo Moscow 4-0 in the Russian Premier League on August 6, leaving head coach Unai Emery with some work to do.

Spartak have lost their past three games, including a 2-1 defeat away to Anzhi Makhachkala on Saturday, and will welcome an in-form Benfica team, who have won three-straight matches in Portugal.

Benfica head coach Jorge Jesus will head to Stadion Luzhniki hoping one of his strikers – Oscar Cardozo, Lima or Rodrigo – can convert their domestic goal-scoring form into goals against Spartak.

The trio have scored 11 goals between them after six rounds in Liga Sagres.

While Benfica and Spartak will hope Barcelona give Celtic a hiding at Camp Nou, the Scottish club know if they can get a point in Catalonia, it will give them plenty of momentum to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages.

Celtic thumped St Mirren 5-0 on Saturday and head to Barcelona with a win away to Spartak and a draw at home against Benfica so far in the continental club competition.

Barcelona are top of Group G with six points and will be clear favourites for the game against Celtic but Neil Lennon’s side could spring an upset if they take their chances against the home side’s disjointed defence.

After eight rounds in La Liga, Barcelona have conceded 11 goals and in their home group match against Spartak, Tito Vilanova’s team had to come from behind to win 3-2.

In a classic example of Barcelona’s defensive problems, the Catalan club overcame Deportivo La Coruna 5-4 on Saturday.

Despite Barcelona’s defensive frailty, however, Celtic will most likely need to produce an unbelievable performance to take points home from Spain.

Mon 22 October, 2012
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