BENFICA WILL HOPE to extend their unbeaten home streak when they face Chelsea in tonight’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final, first leg.
The Lisbon-based team have not lost at home for 10 matches in European competitions and Benfica’s coach Jorge Jesus will hope that form can help his side through to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1990.
Chelsea have not won away from home in this season’s Champions League. Jesus will expect a lot of striker Oscar Cardozo, who is the only Benfica player to have reached double figures in goals so far this season.
Cardozo has scored four times in seven Champions League matches this season, including one in Benfica’s 4-3 aggregate quarter-final win over Zenit St Petersburg. Chelsea reached the quarter-finals stage with a 5-4 aggregate victory against Napoli.
Benfica goes into the game second in Portugal’s Liga Sagres, one point behind FC Porto. Jesus’ team drew 0-0 with seventh-placed Olhanense on Friday.
The Benfica manager started 32-year-old midfielder Pablo Aimar on the bench against Olhanense and the Argentine should be well-rested for Tuesday’s game. Chelsea also drew 0-0 over the weekend, having been held at home by Tottenham on Saturday.
That result leaves Chelsea five points behind Spurs on the English Premier League table, in serious danger of missing out on qualifying for the Champions League again next season. The two clubs have never played each other in a competitive match, but Chelsea will go into the game with plenty of knowledge of Benfica, thanks to Ramires and David Luiz’s recent stints at the Portuguese club.
Roberto Di Matteo’s men are the only English side remaining in the competition and go into Tuesday’s game with all players available. Defender Branislav Ivanovic suffered a thigh injury in Chelsea’s 2-1 loss to Manchester City on Wednesday and did not play against Tottenham, but is expected to be fit against Benfica.