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After suffering a heavy defeat to Bayern Munich in their opening Group E fixture, FC Barcelona then played out two disappointing draws with Granada and Cádiz in the league.
But the team flashed back to life with a fantastic performance against Levante on Sunday. It would seem that the blaugrana have finally found the form they were missing, and just in time for the next episode of their Champions League campaign on Wednesday night (9.00pm CEST).
The venue is the Stadium of Light in Lisbon, and the opposition are Benfica, who have a 100 per cent record in their own domestic championship and opened Group E with a 0-0 draw away to Dynamo Kyiv.
The game is a repeat of the 1961 final in Bern. The ‘Eagles’ got the better of Barça that night, but in six games between the sides since then, not only have Barça never lost but they have only conceded one goal, including clean sheets in the last four meetings.
Pedri is back after a short spell out through injury, and Barça also recover Sergi Roberto, who has been ill. Ousmane Dembélé, Martin Braithwaite, Sergio Agüero and Jordi Alba are still out of action.
After playing the last quarter of an hour against Levante, and having a huge impact in such a small amount of time, a fabulous goal included, Ansu Fati is back in a Champions League squad. Exactly how much time he is going to be given is a mystery that will not be answered until the night of the game. However, Ronald Koeman has insisted that the club does not intend to rush things – so a full game would seem highly unlikely.
Every goal against Benfica
There have been a few beauties over the years against the Lisbon club.
Did you know?
Ronald Koeman managed Benfica in the 2005/06 season, guiding them to the quarter finals of the Champions League and beating Manchester United and Liverpool on the way. It was then that they met eventual champions FC Barcelona, losing 2-0 on aggregate.
Today’s referee is Daniele Orsato of Italy, whose only previous game in charge of Barça was a 2-0 win for the Catalans at Celtic Park in 2016. It’s the fourth time he has whistled Benfica.
Benfica are hoping to avoid their fourth consecutive defeat in their opening home fixture in the group stage (CSKA Moscow, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig all won in Lisbon).
Barça have not lost their first two games in Europe since they lost both legs to FC Porto in 1972-73.
Watch out for Rafa Silva. He took on and beat players seven times in Benfica's opening group fixture, more than any player in match day 1.
Memphis scored in both of his last two games against Benfica, both for Lyon in the 2019-20.
Barça do not have fond memories of their last visit to the Estadio da Luz. That was in 2020 to play Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter final.
Benfica defender Álex Grimaldo is a La Masia graduate who played 82 games for Barça before moving to Portugal in 2016.
Ronald Araujo says
"Barça want to win it all and we have to fight for the biggest prizes. We can't just wait to see what happens, we have to go out to win and challenge the biggest teams."
Ronald Koeman says
“I have the experience of having managed Benfica, so I know what a great club they have. And they have some very experienced players like Vertonghen … We have analysed them and know how quick they are and how they use space. It’s important for us to keep as much possession as we can and keep things tight at the back … I don’t think Benfica will give us much space. Portuguese teams like to govern games and fill the defence.”
Ansu Fati was very tired yesterday. It had an impact on him emotionally. The mental factor needs careful monitoring with him … We want to give him more and more time, but I’m not going to tell you before every game how many minutes he will play for.”
“Against Levante the other day we barely had anyone on the right wing. We are missing wingers so we need to pack the midfield instead. The system doesn’t matter. You can always attack with any system. Everything worked great against Levante, but the intention to win the ball and create pressure is always there.”
“Luuk de Jong does a lot for us because he’s so different. It was good for him to score the other day. He has the experience of big European games like this.”
“Fitness is also an issue. It is hard for any player to cope with five games in 12 days.”
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