Soccer Champions League - Play-Offs 8 March 2023
Benfica vs Club Brugge KV - Match Preview
Since a 2-0 victory in the first leg of this UEFA Champions League (UCL) last 16 tie, Primeira Liga leaders Benfica have won three successive league games by a two-goal margin so confidence should be sky-high as they aim for a second straight UCL quarter-final appearance. In fact, they haven’t lost a UCL game since that quarter-final home leg against Liverpool last April (W9, D3) and know extending that record with as little as a draw would see them advance.
Only PSG held Benfica to a draw at home during that run (W4) and not since May have they lost a competitive home fixture (W16, D2), which highlights the size of the task awaiting Club Brugge. The Eagles will be hoping to fly high once more as they’ve never lost a European home game to Belgian opponents (W8, D2), winning the last four of those fixtures ‘to nil’ as their safe passage to the last-eight looks to be a formality.
The task facing Brugge is mountainous enough without them heading to Portugal struggling for form, as a run of one win in their last six fixtures (D3, L2) leaves them fourth in Belgium’s First position. Even more worrying is a lack of goals as they haven’t scored more than twice in one game – which they must do here to win without needing penalties – since October 29th!
If there’s a crumb of comfort to be had for the reigning Belgian champions, heading to Portugal should bring back good memories after their 4-0 away win against Porto in September. Although their recent form and goal-shy nature suggests a repeat is unlikely, they have little choice but to go for broke and attempt something similar if they’re to win a post-group stage European knockout tie for the first time since 2014/15.
📋 Players to watch: Gonçalo Ramos could put the tie to bed for Benfica as he’s scored in three of their last four home games, three times after the hour-mark. Meanwhile, both of Hans Vanaken’s last two strikes for Brugge served as the second goal of the game.
⚡ Hot stat: Benfica have won 20 out of 21 previous European ties in which they won the first leg away from home (L1).
Chelsea vs Dortmund - Match Preview
In a first-ever Stamford Bridge meeting, Chelsea host Borussia Dortmund for this much-anticipated second leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 ties. In need of an inspirational performance to progress after losing the first leg 1-0, capturing ‘Old Big Ears’ represents both the Blues’ only realistic hope of a trophy and their likeliest route into this competition next season after a stuttering Premier League campaign.
A 1-0 league win over Leeds last time out may have broken a six-game winless streak (D3, L3), but Graham Potter's side have only managed four goals from their last 11 contests (W2, D3, L6) so doubts remain over their trophy-winning credentials. Considering those goalscoring issues, Chelsea might have to lean on an impressive historical record of dealing with European adversity, having progressed four times across their last seven UCL knockout-stage ties when losing the first leg on their travels.
The battling Londoners could be boosted by looking at Dortmund’s recent away record in England, as the German club has lost on their last five trips there. Such a stat is unlikely to be at the forefront of manager Edin Terzić’s mind though, especially with his side containing talent such as the highly-sought after Jude Bellingham, who has helped orchestrate Dortmund’s best-ever start to a calendar year (W10), bookended by a 2-1 win over RB Leipzig.
Whether that’s enough to see them secure progression here and continue their mission to emulate BVB’s UCL-winning 1996/97 side remains to be seen. Yet whilst a club-record seventh successive tournament proper appearance means Dortmund are comfortable amongst Europe’s elite, they won’t be at full strength for this contest with first-leg match-winner Karim Adeyemi ruled out as part of a growing injury list.
📋 Players to watch: Chelsea’s newly-signed youngster Mykhailo Mudryk’s first UCL goal arrived against another German club in the form of Leipzig during a matchday one win for Shakhtar Donetsk (4-1). The more experienced Marco Reus arrives in hot form, having struck four goal contributions across BVB’s last three games (G2, A2).
⚡ Hot streak: Dortmund have scored the opener in their last eight competitive outings (W8).
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