EUROPE: Champions League – Qualification
Time: 6:00 PM
Venue: Otkrytiye Arena (Moscow)
Stadion Spartak plays host to this crunch match between Spartak Moscow and Benfica, the first of two legs to determine who will enter the play-off round to make the UEFA Champions League (UCL) group stage. The silver lining for both clubs here is that European football is guaranteed, as the eliminated side will parachute straight into the UEFA Europa League group stage.
Recently appointed Spartak boss Rui Vitória has experienced a mixed start to life in Russia (W1, L1) but this is a much tougher proposition against his former employers Benfica, whom he’s faced 13 times before with little success (W2, D1, L10). Improving that record would put Spartak on their way to qualifying for a UCL group stage for the first time since 2017/18, albeit the Russians did lose both legs of a European qualifier vs Portuguese opponents as recently as 2019/20.
Jorge Jesus’ Benfica are yet to start their domestic campaign but they’ll be fired up for this clash considering they’ve twice been European finalists during the last decade under Jesus’ charge. However Jorge Jesus has won just one of his six previous European qualifying away legs despite his side starting as favourites each time (W1, D2, L3), after seeing both teams score in all six matches.
Analysing each side’s record against the opposing nation could help decipher this clash – Spartak’s overall record vs Portuguese opponents stands at: W4, D2, L6 with four of six losses coming at both HT/FT. Meanwhile, Benfica’s record vs Russian opposition stands at a balanced: W8, D4, L8 with 60% of those clashes seeing one or neither team score within 90 minutes.
Players to watch: Eleven of Jordan Larsson’s 15 Spartak goals last season came after HT and subsequently, just five were match openers. Meanwhile, Benfica’s Swiss striker Haris Seferović returns having scored three goals at the EUROs – 19 of his 26 Benfica strikes during 2021/22 came beyond HT.
- Fluminense’s form in last 5 matches: WLWWW.
- Benfica’s form in last 5 matches: DWWWD