Champions League preview: match day two
Portuguese teams are one of the select few sides that can match the pressing intensity and passing of the Catalan’s and Porto pushed Barcelona close at their own game in the UEFA Super Cup last season, before succumbing 2-0. Benfica have lost Axel Witsel and Javi Garcia this summer and are without their captain, Luisao, for two months after the Brazilian defender was handed a two month suspension for pushing a referee.
Pablo Aimar and Nicolas Gaitan are still plying their trade in Lisbon and with the continued absence of Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol, Benfica will fancy their chances of taking three points on Tuesday. Despite recording eight straight wins as Barcelona manager, Tito Vilanova’s side have been made to sweat and work for these wins, Saturday’s 3-2 comeback over Sevilla was microcosm of their season so far.
Sevilla went 2-0 up only for Cesc Fabregas to score twice, and then help engineer a sending off for Sevilla, which ultimately tipped the game towards Barca. Spartak Moscow suffered defeat by the same score line, having taken the lead twice, but despite making it hard work Barcelona are still getting the results.
In Pablo Aimar and Nicolas Gaitan, Benfica have enough talent to ask some serious questions of the Barcelona defence. Alex Song and Javier Mascherano were the centre-back pairing at the weekend and were both at fault for the Sevilla goals. If former Braga hot-shot Lima starts for Benfica he will be looking to exploit their lack of positional play and get in behind the extremely high Barcelona defensive line.
Oscar Cardozo is expected to miss out through injury but this match promises to be a classic. The absence of Garcia, Witsel, Cardozo and Luisao makes a win less likely but Benfica will go toe to toe with Barcelona and it should be closer than the 5/1 price suggests.
Benfica v Barcelona tips
Benfica to score first at 2/1 with Ladbrokes
Fabregas to score anytime at 11/4 with William Hill
Benfica win at 5/1 with Betfair (as a buy to lay)
Spartak Moskva v Celtic
Juventus v Shakhtar Donetsk
Nordsjælland v Chelsea
Valencia v LOSC Lille
BATE v Bayern
CFR Cluj v Man. United
Galatasaray v Braga
Wednesday’s big game sees domestic champions Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund face off at the Etihad Stadium. City have had a shaky start to the season and it took a superb strike from the underused Edin Dzeko to take all three points at Craven Cottage and as the MOTD pundits (for once) rightly pointed out Kompany and to a lesser extent Lescott have had a dreadful start to the season.
Dortmund suffered their first league defeat in 31 matches last weekend as Rafael van der Vaart inspired Hamburg to a 3-2 win, but responded as champions, by putting five past Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday. Marco Reus scored twice and assisted against his former side, who finished fourth last season, and Man City will be wary of defending so poorly against the reigning Bundesliga champions.
Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund tips
Both teams to score at 8/13 with bet365
Marco Reus to score first at 9/1 with Ladbrokes
Back the draw at 13/5 with Betfair
Zenit v Milan
Schalke v Montpellier
Anderlecht v Málaga
Ajax v Real Madrid
Dynamo Kyiv v Dinamo Zagreb
Porto v PSG
Arsenal v Olympiacos
Man. City v Dortmund
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