Monday, January 21, 2019

Prediction: Benfica vs PAOK

Verdict: Benfica win and under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 5/2

Bookmaker: Bet365

Two sides that will know they’re now just two games from booking their spot in the Champions League group stages, Rui Vitória’s Benfica side will be looking to carry on their impressive start to the new season when they welcome last years Greek Super League runners-ups PAOK to Estádio da Luz on Tuesday night.

Benfica

Starting with Rui Vitória’s Benfica side, although Tuesday’s hosts may have finished nine points adrift of Porto in the race for the Primera Liga title last season, The Reds have started the new season brightly. Coming off the back of a 2-0 win over Boavista last week, The Eagles have now won both of their opening domestic fixtures and one man to watch will be Portuguese international midfielder Pizzi. Although he may have not made the World Cup squad, the 28-year-old has already found the net four times in their opening two outings. Benfica will also be boosted by their recent Champions League record at Estádio da Luz. In fact, The Reds have won and kept a clean sheet in their last four European matches on home soil. Aside from their pre-season tour in the International Champions Cup, they have only lost one of their last nine matches in all competitions and will be a clear favorite to come away with the advantage on Tuesday.

Team News

Jonas is likely to miss out due to a back injury, while Nicolas Castillo also faces a similar fate after recently picking up a leg injury.

Filip Krovinovic is set to make his comeback from a cruciate ligament injury only in the first few weeks of September, while Tyronne Ebuehi (also suffering from a cruciate ligament injury) is not expected to be back until January

PAOK

As for Răzvan Lucescu’s PAOK side, much like their hosts, the Greek side could also only secure a second place finish as they could only finish behind AEK Athens. Although their league campaign is yet to kick off, the visitors have impressed during their qualifying campaign as they come past both Swiss powerhouses Basel and Spartak Moscow. If the Greeks side are to come away with an upset victory on Tuesday, they will be looking for Alexander Prijovic to carry on his run of form in the tournament. The 28-year-old has three in his last four outings. While the visitors will certainly prove to be a tough test and have been an enjoyable side to watch in this years competition, they have only managed to win one Champions League matchup since 2004 and a visit to Lisbon will prove to be a very tough test.

Team News

Boss Răzvan Lucescu has confirmed that he will travel to Lisbon with basically a full-strength squad, the only absentee for the Greek side will be Dorian Lévêque who is still recovering from a long-term injury problem.

Key Factors to Consider

  • The teams met again in the 2013/14 round of 32, Benfica winning the first leg 1-0 in Greece and scoring three times in the final 20 minutes back in Lisbon to wrap up a 4-0 aggregate success.
  • Benfica have won their last four Champions League home matches 1-0.
  • Just 35% of Benfica’s home league games last season saw both teams score.
  • Benfica have won both of their previous meetings with PAOK to nil.
  • If The Reds qualify this will be the ninth consecutive season they have qualified for the Champions League.

Conclusion

While PAOK are looking to reach the group stages for the first time in the clubs history and impressed against both Basel and Spartak Moscow, their hosts are an extremely strong outfit at home. With Benfica not losing a Champions League match at Estadio da Luz in the last decade, while it will be a tough test against a stubborn PAOK side, we’re backing The Eagles to come away with the win in the first leg.

Verdict: Benfica win and under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 5/2

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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