Barcelona vs Benfica preview

December 4, 2012
By: Nemanja Lazarevic

With Barcelona already securing the first place in the standings, this match will have much greater importance for Benfica, who need to equal or better Celtic’s result in the final round to go through.

Following what was a pretty disappointing season for club’s standards, which saw the Catalans miss out on both La Liga and Champions League trophies, the team have been showing a lot of improvement under Tito Vilanova.

While winning 13 of 14 league matches to create an 11-point advantage over arch rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona also won the first place in their Champions League group, even if they were made to work hard for it.

Apart from the away win over Spartak Moscow, the Catalans experienced some problems in all other group games, but in the end did well to qualify from the top of the group.

Having won last six games in all competitions, Tito Vilanova’s side will be keen on extending the impressive run, so bear in mind BetFred pays 1.53 (8/15).

With Leo Messi just one goal short of Gerd Muller’s 85-goal record, the Argentine is 1.44 (4/9) at Stan James to score at least once against Benfica.

Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez and Dani Alves all miss out, while Tito Vilanova could rest several first team regulars.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Valdes – Montoya, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano – Xavi, Song, Thiago – Tello, Messi, Villa.

Before the group stage started, Benfica were tipped to ease off into the next stage together with Barcelona, but the Eagles have failed to live up to their potential.

Even if they are still masters of their own destiny and would go through with a win at Camp Nou, Jorge Jesus’ side are clearly in for an uphill task.

The situation here is clear, given that Benfica only need to equal Celtic’s result in order to pip the Bhoys to the second place in the standings.

With Celtic playing host to indifferent Spartak Moscow, the reality is the Eagles don’t have much to hope for at the moment.

However, Benfica are now on a seven-match winning run and they are 6.00 (5/1) with SkyBet to produce a major coup and triumph at Camp Nou.

Pablo Aimar and Carlos Martins are definitely out of this game, while Enzo Perez and Eduardo Salvio are both doubtful.

Probable starting line-up (4-1-4-1): Artur – Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Melgarejo – Matic – Rodrigo, Bruno Cesar, Perez, Ola John – Cardozo.

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