SL Benfica (2nd, 1pt) vs FC Barcelona (4th, 0pts)
Competition/Round: 2021-22 UEFA Champions League, Group E, Matchday 2
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Jordi Alba, Martin Braithwaite, Ousmane Dembélé, Alejandro Balde, Sergio Agüero (out)
Benfica Outs & Doubts: Diogo Gonçalves, Nemanja Radonjic (out)
Date/Time: Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeira), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Thursday)
Venue: Estádio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal
Referee: Daniele Orsato (ITA)
VAR: Massimiliano Irrati (ITA)
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA), BT Sport ESPN (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), SONY TEN 2 (India), Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), others
Following an exciting victory over Levante over the weekend, Barcelona return to action for a crucial Champions League match as they travel to Lisbon to face Benfica at the Estádio da Luz.
The last time Barça played a Champions League game at the Estádio da Luz, they lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich. They lost again to Bayern at Camp Nou two weeks ago, so the first trip back to the stage of their worst-ever defeat comes with the pressure of winning to pick up their first points in the group stage.
Bayern will undoubtedly run away with the group, and with Dynamo Kiev set to face Barça twice in a row in this group, a win against Benfica would be crucial for the Blaugrana if they want to finish second. The Portuguese will be Barça’s main competition for that spot, and beating them at their place would be a big confidence boost and make the Catalans favorites to come out of the group behind the German champions.
But it won’t be easy. Jorge Jesus is a very good coach and his teams are known for their aggressive and intense style, and Barça have not had much success against those types of sides under Ronald Koeman. The win against Levante was encouraging but Sunday’s opponents didn’t put up much of a fight, so Benfica will be a much better measuring stick to see if Barça are really on the right path.
Frenkie De Jong and Pedri are back for this one which is very good news, and if the midfield can dominate again like they did at the weekend then Barça are more than capable of navigating a tricky away game and leaving Portugal with a victory.
Barcelona (4-2-3-1): Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Piqué, Araujo, Dest; F. De Jong, Busquets; Gavi, Coutinho, Memphis; L. De Jong
Benfica (3-4-3): Vlachodimos; Veríssimo, Otamendi, Vertonghen; Lazaro, Weigl, João Mário, Grimaldo; Rafa Silva, Yaremchuk, Núñez
Not sure how to feel about this one. The win against Levante was great but inconsistency is the mark of Koeman’s team, and Benfica are good enough to make it very tough for Barça. But I’ll still be optimistic: 2-1 to the good guys.