SL Benfica vs Bayern Munich Match Preview
Benfica Vs Bayern Munich: SL Benfica is this year’s Portuguese side to reach the quarter-finals,taking the role from their Portuguese counterparts FC Porto who also met Bayern last season on the same stage as well.
Bayern Munich have been having a very solid season so far and are on course to reach their fifth straight UEFA Champions league semi-final. They are the most consistent German side in the European competition,this season would be something special for the fans since Pep Guardiola has announced his departure to English Premier League Club Manchester City and the players will be desperate to give a winning sent off to their gaffer.
In the first leg match against Bayern, Benfica showed courage and put up a fight to not lose bigger than a 1-0 scoreline to one of the giants of Europe.The first half was pure dominance from the Bavarians with switching play from one side to the another and constant utilization of the wings to mock the Benfica defense working well enough.The second half showed a transformed Benfica who rectified their mistakes and perfected their defense and even though they weren’t able to make much of the attack,they were able to string some pacy counter attacks that questioned the ability of Bernat to track back while the opponent is in the attacking phase.
Recent Form and Performances
The Portuguese side has only the league to play for this season; ousted from Taca de Portugal by a close league and local rivals Sporting in the fourth round.They have shown their sharpness in the league, at last, snatching the first spot from Sporting after several days.
On a positive note,they have the joint best defense in Portugal with Sporting and also one of the best defenses in Europe with just 20 goals conceded in the league. Benfica also trail only behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in offensive force, having scored 78 league goals this season.
They fared well in the UCL as well,getting an away win against Atletico Madrid and also outclassing Andre Villa Boas’s Zenit side over two legs, one of these legs had Benfica playing a lot of youth players which shows the courage of new head coach Rui Victoria.
With the share of spoils in the Revierderby yesterday, Bayern have now increased the gap between themselves and Dortmund in the league to seven points.While mathematically, Dortmund does have a chance to win the Bundesliga, in reality, their chances of winning the title seem null. So Bayern has the league in its pocket as long as it is able to grind out 2-3 wins more.
That said, Bayern are also in the race for the DFB Pokal. This time facing Werder Bremen, a club renown as giant killers in the cup competition, having beat Monchengladbach and Leverkusen on their way to the semifinals.
Bayern have only managed a series of 1-0 wins against Frankfurt and Koln. This was followed by a lackluster 3-1 win at Stuttgart though the scoreline says otherwise.Die Schwaben might have made a true derby out of it as they were perfect in the offense many of the times if it were not for the timely saves made by the world’s best shot-stopper Manuel Neuer.
One could argue that the important players like Philipp Lahm,Thiago Alcantara,Thomas Muller and Douglas Costa were benched and brought late into the match. Also,Pep Guardiola is seeking a solution to a five-man back line and the experiment continued in the Stuttgart match with Bayern playing a typical 3-3-1-3.
Opportunities, Strengths, and Weaknesses
Benfica can give a sigh of relief as Robben wouldn’t be making the trip to Lisbon. Bayern are careful enough to not risk him since he is a very important player for the coming months.On the other hand, Coman would make the trip,but since he has just come from a muscular injury, Bayern may not use him as a starter. So Benfica would probably see the same wingers starting against them today in Ribery and Costa.
Bayern also can take contention from the fact that two of Benfica’s most important players in Jonas and Gaitan are missing the match,the former through suspension(3 yellow cards) and the latter through muscular injury. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar is still not available which would mean Ederson will start.
Bayern should be pressing for an away goal as early as possible which would force Benfica score at least three to progress, almost impossible for the Portuguese side. So Benfica should be defensively well organized if they want a result out of this tie.
SL Benfica: Renato Sanches, Nilsson Lindelof, Konstantinos Mitroglou
Bayern Munich: Arturo Vidal, Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery
Head to Head
Benfica have faced Bayern three times in their home ground, having lost the latest home fixture to Bayern by 3-1 back in 1995 in the UEFA Cup and have drawn two other games without goals from both sides.
Predicted Starting XI
Bayern Munich (4-1-4-1):
Benching Robert Lewandowski would seem foolish but he deserves a rest. For a crucial player like him, he deserves a break. He is in a poor run of form temporarily, and I guess it is because he is overworked. In this match, playing Muller as a lone forward would give the same results.
Mario Gotze can be given a chance this match to show his worth who has not impressed Pep Guardiola in the last three seasons. If the former German starts the game, it will be a season-changing game for the player.
We although cannot be sure of the formation as Pep isn’t predictable with the formations he produces,this one would be the most preferable.
SL Benfica (4-4-2):
The absence of Gaitan would mean Samaria and Fejsa taking the duties. Benfica have normally played a 4-4-2 in the Champions league and it is a possible formation although minor changes can be there due to the absence of Gaitan and Jonas.
Benfica is not the side to be underestimated. The whole world was a witness to how Porto bagged a win in Portugal last year. Benfica can pull something special tonight as well and we should not rule them out of it.
Only a convincing win here would satisfy Bayern and further push them to the next stage of accomplishing their treble hopes, that all fans have wished for so long under Pep Guardiola. Finishing the season in the best possible way would also be a sort of a farewell treat to Pep. For Benfica, reaching the semifinals will mean more than anything and that will give them a boost in challenging for the UCL title this season.