Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Prediction: PAOK vs Benfica

Verdict: Benfica to advance – yes

Best Odds: 3/4

Bookmaker: 888sport

PAOK, are only 90 minutes away from reaching the UEFA Champions League Group Stage. Even though they have everything working on their favour since they will decide the tie at home, they shouldn’t take anything for granted. Benfica are a tough opponent with a lot of international experience, and are more than capable of winning here. Kick-off is scheduled at 20:00 hrs (BST) at Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki, Greece.

PAOK

Many thought Benfica were overwhelming favourites heading into this tie due to their international experience. However, PAOK are headed into this tie with a precious away-goal advantage following the 1-1 draw in the first leg. The Greek outfit, who finished in second place behind AEK Athens in the 2017/18 Greek Super League, have already defeated two strong opponents in the previous qualifying rounds. They began their UCL campaign topping Basel with a 5-1 aggregate score, and then took care of Spartak Moscow (3-2). PAOK won both home matches, although they also conceded at least once in each of those games, so Benfica could have a shot as long as they score once. The Greek side also enjoyed a decent start to their Super League campaign with a decent, yet unspectacular, 1-0 home win over Asteras Tripolis so they remain undefeated in competitive matches during the current term.

Team News

PAOK are at full strength ahead of this game. They don’t have injured or suspended players heading into this contest.

Benfica

Benfica should have done a far better job in the first leg of this tie. Despite dominating most of the game and creating the best scoring chances, they only settled for a 1-1 draw so this means they will have to go all out on Greek soil to see whether they can reach the Champions League group stage. For what is worth, the Portuguese giants had a decent opponent in their first qualifying match in Fenerbahce, but Benfica got past the Turkish side with a 2-1 aggregate score that included a 1-0 home win and a 1-1 away draw. However, their European performances have had a lot to be desired overall. They dropped their six games during the Champions League’s Group Stage in 2017/18, and have also gone six straight away CL matches without a win (D2, L4). Can they turn things around when they need it the most? Losing in this tie would be a major disappointment, but it’s not out of the question considering just how poor the side has looked on the road of late in the European stage.

Team News

Benfica will feature several absences in this game. Nicolas Castillo (calf), Tyronne Ebuehi (knee) and Filip Krovinovic (knee) have all been ruled out.

To make things even more complicated, several others are doubtful. That list includes Sebastien Corchia (knee), Jonas (back), Eduardo Salvio (calf) and Bruno Varela (shoulder). All four will require a late-fitness test to determine their availability.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Despite losing four of their last seven Champions League matches at home, the hosts are unbeaten in five Champions League matches home and away (W3, D2).
  • Benfica have lost six of their last nine UCL matches away from home (W1, D2, L6). In five of them, they haven’t been able to score.
  • PAOK have conceded at least two goals in six of their seven CL matches at home.
  • Benfica are unbeaten in three matches against PAOK (W2, D1), scoring five goals and conceding only once.
  • The Portuguese giants are riding a six-game undefeated run across all competitions, with three wins and three draws.

Conclusion

PAOK seem to have the edge when it comes to the first-leg result, as they could qualify with a scoreless draw. However, Benfica should not have problems to turn things around. Their European pedigree is much bigger than PAOK’s, and the team can’t allow to miss on the Champions League against a far more inexperienced opponent.

Verdict: Benfica to advance – yes

Best Odds: 3/4

Bookmaker: 888sport

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juan Pablo Aravena


A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.

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