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After losing at home to Bayern Munich in their opening UEFA Champions League Group E fixture, Wednesday (9.00pm CEST) brings the first road trip of the campaign, a visit to Portugal to face Benfica. Here are all the essentials on the Eagles of Lisbon.
WHERE ARE THEY FROM?
Lisbon is home to just over a quarter of the Portuguese population and is regarded as one of the Europe’s oldest cities. Much of it was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1755, one of the worst natural disasters ever to affect the continent.
The many historic attractions include the Castelo de São Jorge and the Torre de Belém, and no visit to the city is complete without a ride on its famous trams and a performance of Fado music.
Founded in 1904, originally as Grupo Sport Lisboa, Benfica is one of the ‘big three’ of Portuguese football, who between them have won all but two editions of the Primeira Liga.
Benfica lead the way with 37 league and 26 cup titles, including five of the last eight (although Sporting Lisbon won the league last season and Porto were champions the years before).
Led by the great Eusebio, the club’s truly golden age was the sixties, when they won back-to-back European Cups, beating FC Barcelona in the first final and Real Madrid in the next.
Benfica have reached the final five times since then (most recently in 1990 against Milan) and also three finals of the UEFA Cup/Europa League (most recently against Sevilla in 2014) and have lost every one.
With 230,000 members, Benfica is one of the most supported clubs in the world. Like Barça, The Eagles not only have teams competing in football, but in such sports as basketball, handball, futsal, volleyball, roller hockey and rugby too.
The original Estádio da Luz (Stadium of Light) was the biggest stadium in Europe until it became an all-seater venue in 1994… and the Camp Nou has held the honour ever since. But in 2002 the legendary venue was demolished and a modern 66,500 capacity venue was erected nearby in time for Euro 2004.
The stadium gets its name from the local neighbourhood, called Luz, which in turn is named after the Church of Our Lady of Light.
In 2014, a poll by L'Équipe declared it the most beautiful stadium in Europe, and it hosted the Champions League Final in 2014 and again in 2020 when the final stages were rearranged due to the pandemic.
LAST TEN YEARS IN EUROPE
2011/12: Champions League quarter finals (lost to Chelsea)
2012/13: Europa League runners-up (lost to Chelsea)
2013/14: Europa League runners-up (lost to Sevilla)
2014/15: Champions League group stage
2015/16: Champions League quarter finals (lost to Bayern Munich)
2016/17: Champions League round of 16 (lost to Borussia Dortmund)
2017/18: Champions League group stage
2018/19: Europa League quarter finals (lost to Eintracht Frankfurt)
2019/20: Europa League round of 32 (lost to Shakhtar Donetsk)
2020/21: Europa League round of 32 (lost to Arsenal)
Most capped internationals
Jan Vertonghen (Belgium, 132), Nicolás Otamendi (Argentina, 81), Haris Seferovic (Switzerland, 80), João Mário (Portugal, 47), Valentino Lazaro (Austria, 32), Roman Yaremchuk (Ukraine, 30), Adel Taarabt (Morocco, 28), Everton Soares (Brazil, 25), Rafa Silva (Portugal, 25), Nemanja Radonjić (Serbia, 24), Pizzi (Portugal, 17), Odysseas Vlachodimos (Greece, 16)
New signings 2021/22
Rodrigo Pinho (Marítimo), Gil Dias (Monaco), João Mário (Inter Milan), Soualiho Meïté (Torino), Roman Yaremchuk (Gent), Nemanja Radonjić (Marseille, loan), Valentino Lazaro (Inter Milan, loan)
Top scorers 2020/21 (all competitions)
Haris Seferovic (26), Pizzi (16), Darwin Núñez (14), Luca Waldschmidt (now Wolfsburg, 10)
Left back Àlex Grimaldo grew up at La Masia and played 92 games for Barça B before being transferred to Benfica in 2015/16.
Jorge Jesus played for 12 different clubs as a professional without ever truly settling anywhere and also managed a number of different clubs before being handed the Benfica job in 2009. He took the team to two Europa League finals before moving to their city rivals Sporting in 2018.
After short spells in Saudi Arabia and Brazil, his only overseas experience, he returned to Benfica in 2020.
Benfica finished third in the league season, the first time they had not been one of the first two clubs since 2009. They reached the finals of both Portuguese cup competitions, but lost both to Braga.
After losing a Champions League qualifier to PAOK of Greece they competed in the Europa League, losing 4-3 on aggregate to Arsenal in the round of 32.
Benfica have got off to the perfect start in the Portuguese league, winning seven games out of seven, which already puts them four points clear at the top of the table. That said, the fixtures have been relatively kind to them, and they have yet to meet any of the top six teams. Uruguayan Darwin Núñez is the second highest goalscorer in the Primeira Liga with four goals.
QUALIFICATION FOR THE 2021/22 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Third qualifying round: Beat Spartak Moscow 4-0 on aggregate
Playoff round: Beat PSV Eindhoven 2-1 on aggregate
PREVIOUS MEETINGS WITH BARÇA
1960/61 European Cup Final (in Bern)
Barça 2 (Kocsis, Czibor) Benfica 3
Benfica won the trophy for the first time and also won the season after.
1991/92 European Cup Group B
Benfica 0 Barça 0
Barça 2 (Stoichkov, Bakero) Benfica 1
Barça won the group and went on to beat Sampdoria in the final.
2005/06 Champions League Quarter Final
Benfica 0 Barça 0
Barça 2 (Ronaldinho, Eto’o) Benfica 0
Barça won 2-0 on aggregate and went on to beat Arsenal in the final
2012/13 Champions League Group G
Benfica 0 Barça 2 (Sánchez, Fábregas)
Barça 0 Benfica 0
Barça won the group while Benfica dropped into the Europa League
Barça's overall record v Benfica
P 7; W 3; D 3; L 1; F 8; A 4
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