When and where: The Champions League Group G contest kicks-off from the Estadio da Luz at 2.45 p.m. ET. A live stream will be available via FoxSoccer2Go.
Preview: Barcelona will hope to avoid the need for a dramatic comeback when they travel to Lisbon to take on Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday. The Catalan giants may have won each of their combined seven games in La Liga and in Europe so far this season, but most have not been achieved with their usual comfort.
Most arduous of all was Saturday’s victory at Sevilla which required goals from Cesc Fabregas and David Villa in the final two minutes to turn the result in their favor. It was a similar, if not quite so spectacular, story in Barcelona’s first Champions League outing two weeks ago. Tito Vilanova’s side were trailing 2-1 at home to Spartak Moscow with just 20 minutes remaining before Lionel Messi popped up with a brace.
Much of Barcelona’s recent problems have been defensively. In the absence of regular center-back pairing Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique, Alex Song has struggled to adapt to a defensive role at his new club alongside another former midfielder Javier Mascherano.
There is good news for Vilanova, though, with Puyol back training and likely to be included from the start at the Estadio da Luz. Another important recent absentee, Andres Iniesta, is also expected to return from injury. Fellow midfielder Thiago Alcantara is set to miss around two months with a knee injury.
Barcelona may not have things all their own way against a side that reached the quarterfinals of the competition last season. Expectations in Lisbon have been lowered, however, after the departure of two key midfielders at the very end of the transfer window.
Axel Witsel and Javi Garcia both left for big money to Zenit St Petersburg and Manchester City, respectively, leaving a definite void in their center. Despite those losses, Benfica currently sit atop the Portuguese Liga, level on points with defending champions Porto.
After an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Celtic on match day one, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus has claimed he will be looking for another point against one of the true European giants on Tuesday.
Their prospects will not be helped by the absence of Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo, through injury, and suspended Brazilian center back Luisao.
D: Pereira, Garay, Jardel, Melgarejo
M: Salvio, Aimar, Perez, Gaitan
F: Rodrigo, Lima
D: Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Fabregas, Messi, Villa
Prediction: Barcelona have yet to hit their stride this season, but the return of Puyol and Iniesta should be a massive boost to the side. Despite the absence of Cardozo, in Rodrigo and Lima, Benfica have two forwards in good goal-scoring form. Supplied by Argentine duo Nicolas Gaitan and Pablo Aimar, Barcelona’s defense could well be tested. With Barcelona minds, understandably, already turning to the Clasico on Sunday, Benfica should push their opponents close but ultimately just fall short.
Benfica 1-2 Barcelona
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