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FutureStarrBenfica With One Foot in Champions League Quarter-Finals
Benfica are in the Champions League quarter-finals after defeating Club Brugge 2-0 at Jan Breydel Stadium. Joao Mario's penalty and David Neres' late goal secured victory for Roger Schmidt's side, who have lost just once in their domestic league this season but topped their Champions League group ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.
Benfica have advanced to the knockout rounds after dominating Club Brugge 2-0 in their Champions League quarter-final. By topping their group, they secured a place in the last 16 and will face either PSG or Juventus on March 7 at Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.
Since Enzo Fernandez's departure to Chelsea in the summer, they have not lost a game and remain unbeaten in their domestic league - including victories over Porto and Braga. Their strength on defense makes them dangerous on counterattacks even without Fernandez at the helm.
In the second half, they weren't quite as dominant as in the first, yet still showed that they are capable of winning at this stage in the competition. Joao Mario scored from the penalty spot in the 58th minute and substitute David Neres added a late goal to secure their victory.
After their loss to Spain, Portugal were determined to win and they took control of the game. Six minutes after restarting, Jack Hendry fouled Goncalo Ramos in the box and Joao Mario stepped up to score. It was an emphatic victory for Joao Mario and his teammates.
Hendry could do nothing about the penalty, however; his touch was poor and he let the ball roll into his net.
However, he was unable to stop David Neres' effort in the 88th minute. After Guedes had assisted, Neres ran through and volleyed it into the bottom corner.
Liverpool were lacking creativity on the counterattack, while Benfica were deadly dangerous from set-pieces. Kostic and Gacinovic stood out, capitalizing on Virgil van Dijk's absence in midfield as well as Jurgen Klopp's high defensive line.
After the opening goal, Liverpool experienced a period of nervousness as they attempted to contain Benfica's pace and threat. They failed to create the chances they had created in the first half and looked increasingly uncertain while trying to make up for it.
After a difficult start to the season, Benfica has now won eight games across all competitions and are in the Champions League quarterfinals after defeating Club Brugge 2-0 on Tuesday to advance 2-1 on aggregate.
Last season, Portugal proved they are a formidable opponent in the Champions League when they eliminated Liverpool from the round of 16 and reached the quarterfinals. Even with Enzo Fernandez and Darwin Nunez gone, Roger Schmidt still has plenty of quality players who can provide big moments during knockout stages of the competition.
They have been the most consistent team in Portugal this season and it shows. They have won their last four Champions League group matches by an impressive combined 11-1 score.
Despite the loss of their star midfielder, they remain a formidable defensive unit. They play with confidence and it will be interesting to see how they fare in the knockout stage of the competition.
On the opening leg of their tie with Club Brugge, Barcelona didn't hold a commanding lead but still created chances in front of goal. Denis Odoi's header deflected in and Ramos headed wide after combining with Mario to score from close range.
But they made up for it with a second-half goal that put them ahead and set them on their way to victory. Jack Hendry's trip on Mario gave Mario the chance to shoot from the penalty spot, which he duly took advantage of.
Unfortunately, Benfica didn't quite deliver the performance we've come to expect in recent months, but nonetheless they still put on a decent show. If they want to advance from this round, they will need to improve significantly in the second leg.
They need to score some more goals in order to stay in the game, which will be a difficult task given that they have only scored two goals in seven home matches across all competitions. To stay ahead of Benfica's strong side, they'll need to find a way to score more than that against an experienced and well-coached squad.
Benfica proved they remain a formidable attacking team in Europe even without Enzo Fernandez, taking an impressive 2-0 lead over Club Brugge in their Champions League last 16 first leg on Wednesday in Belgium.
Benfica secured victory and moved into the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016. It's an encouraging sign ahead of their Champions League home game against Liverpool on Tuesday.
Though they didn't put in their best performance, Portugal took control of the match after halftime and were rewarded with an unlikely goal in the 88th minute courtesy of substitute Guedes who collected the ball and passed it on to Neres who ran through to score.
Benfica made the most of their possession and created chances in every game they played with a lone striker up front. Their technical abilities were on show throughout, as they used their superior pace to dribble past opponents and take control of possession.
Goncalo Guedes, on-loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, replaced Ramos midway through the second half and his pace helped them create more chances. Additionally, Guedes played an integral role in setting up Neres for his second goal by collecting the ball and passing it on.
He is an agile winger who can play on either flank, and has been compared to Nani for his impressive dribbling skills. A highly versatile player with plenty of energy, he has earned himself a place in the spotlight.
At 17, it's not often that a youngster can produce such impressive performances for his club at such an early age, but the 17-year-old has certainly impressed. Additionally, he has already won the UEFA Youth League and looks like becoming quite the star in the future.
Ajax will have an uphill battle against Benfica, who have only won once in their domestic league this season and top of their Champions League group. Expect them to come out fighting and make life difficult for Ajax.
Ajax had a tough first leg in Lisbon, but the second leg in Frankfurt will prove even tougher. They will be desperate to advance to the quarter-finals and their past three away matches in the round of 16 are an indication of that.
Benfica have one foot in the Champions League quarterfinals after defeating Club Brugge 2-0. The Portuguese side hasn't lost a Champions League game since October and are currently sitting atop Portugal's Taca da Liga table.
Manager Roger Schmidt has transformed Benfica into an unstoppable attacking force in Europe. They've won four of their last five matches, averaging more than four goals per 90 minutes this season in competition.
However, they've been severely compromised with the loss of Enzo Fernandez to Chelsea. As a key member of their squad, it will be difficult for Schmidt to assemble his side without him.
However, the team remains capable of winning major tournaments. It could be the dark horse in this year's competition and make an all-out run to the final.
Goalkeeping for the Portuguese side has been exceptional this season, as they've kept clean sheets in nearly 60% of their games. Furthermore, they've enjoyed great success away from home this year - their average away win is +9.7 per 90 minutes, higher than any top-five European team's.
They've been particularly strong in the penalty area this season, allowing a league-best 3.2 per 90 on penalties - up from 1.6 last season and one major reason why they rank so highly when it comes to penalty takers.
The only negative to this team is that they've often gotten away with costly errors, particularly up front. Their carelessness at times has cost them more than expected.
When they had the ball in the box against Club Brugge, they made several errors and were fortunate not to be penalized for offside. Furthermore, they had multiple chances to score but failed to hit home the winning touch.
They could have done better, but Benfica showcased their technical prowess in the second half when substitute David Neres capped off an impressive display with a goal. It came thanks to Jack Hendry's mistake - he got in the way of a bouncing ball before Neres took advantage and ran through for what proved to be his first Champions League goal!