Bayern lead Group E by a healthy six points and with Benfica just two points adrift of Barcelona, a defeat here would be a disaster for the Catalans, especially as their final game sees them travel to Munich.
There is renewed optimism surrounding the club with the appointment of club legend Xavi, though there’s no disguising the scale of the task ahead with a weaker playing squad compared to years gone by and tight financial constraints limiting what can realistically be achieved.
The most important thing for the former midfield maestro was to get off to a quick start, with a tight 1-0 derby win over Espanyol at the weekend welcome news, even if the penalty was controversially awarded.
Barcelona are now unbeaten in four appearances, though the other results were hardly all that impressive given they were a pair of stalemates with 14th and 15th placed Alaves and Celta Vigo respectively, as well as a 1-0 triumph over the group’s weakest team in Dinamo Kiev.
Benfica represent a much tougher assignment and the hosts have a number of injury concerns to navigate ahead of this clash.
Sergio Busquets, Oscar Mingueza and Nico Gonzalez all had to be withdrawn at the weekend, though only the latter is expected to be a major doubt here with a sprained ankle.
There’s better news with Ronald Araujo fit enough for a brief substitute appearance against Espanyol, so the Argentinian could potentially be in line to replace Eric Garcia at the back alongside veteran Gerard Pique.
Benfica Double Chance
With Sergino Dest a major doubt and Dani Alves unable to feature for the club until January, Mingueza could get another opportunity at right-back despite a poor display last time out, with Sergi Roberto the alternative.
However, it’s in attack where injuries hit hardest. Forwards Martin Braithwaite and Sergio Aguero are unavailable, as are wide men Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele, so Gavi may well continue in an advance role alongside Memphis Depay and one of Phillipe Coutinho or Yusuf Demir, with Rui Puig likely to get the nod in the middle alongside Busquets and Frenkie de Jong.
Benfica will certainly be no pushovers having already thumped Barcelona 3-0 this term. They’re W14-D5-L3 over 90 minutes this season as two of those defeats were inflicted by Bayern, even if those saw them lost 4-0 and home and 5-2 away.
Still, they head into this fixture off the back of 6-1 and 4-1 wins over Sporting Braga and Pacos de Ferreira respectively, while their own injury concerns have largely cleared up over the international break.
BENFICA DOUBLE CHANCE