A run of three winless games was ended at the weekend as Memphis Depay, Luke de Jong and Ansu Fati all got on the scoresheet in a 3-0 victory for Barcelona.
That win puts them up to sixth in La Liga, albeit with a game in hand on four of the five teams above them, so it’s not all doom and gloom at the Camp Nou just yet.
They’ll be playing catch up in this group having succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in their opening game, and anything other than a win here would leave them a massive uphill climb, and that’s much easier said than done.
Benfica have made a perfect start to their title challenge with maximum points from their opening seven games, scoring 19 times and conceding just four.
Five of those seven sides are currently in the bottom half of the table though, with seventh placed Boa-Vista the highest placed of the lot so this will certainly be a different challenge for the Portuguese outfit.
They opened their European Account with a stale 0-0 draw with Dynamo Kiev, which is a poor result considering the other two sides they still have to face.
Benfica And Barcelona To Draw
These two sides have met four times in the Champions League, with Benfica holding a D2-L2 record in those games, though they’re yet to score against the Catalans.
In fact, the only Champions League game in Portugal that Barcelona have lost since the turn of the century came in their 8-2 thrashing by Bayern two years ago, winning four of five unbeaten outings away against Portuguese sides and keeping four clean sheets in that time.
This, however, is not the Barcelona team of old, and while they still pose an obvious threat, they’re not as ruthless a side as they were even last year and they now come to a ground where the hosts have won all five of their fixtures this season.
Nicolas Otamendi and Jan Vertonghen will likely continue in the heart of defence alongside the returning Lucas Verissimo. The Portuguese side have a 90% league win record from the 20 matches Verissimo has played since the start of last season, compared to just 40% without and he could be the difference on the day.
Ansu Fati made his return at the weekend and managed to get himself on the scoresheet too, while reports claim that Pedri may be in line to make a return to the team, though with Sergio Aguero and Ousmane Dembele still sidelined the visitors’ attacking options are limited.
We’d expect this to be an incredibly tight battle and while Barcelona would likely edge this in terms of quality and stature in the game, this being played at the Estadio de Luz nullifies that advantage for us and a draw certainly isn’t out of the picture here.
BENFICA AND BARCELONA TO DRAW