- Club Brugge play host to Benfica at the Jan Breydel Stadion on Wednesday night in the first leg of their round of 16 Champions League matchup.
- The hosts have been in woeful domestic form since the turn of the year, picking up just one league win in seven games.
- Benfica are undefeated during their 2022/23 Champions League campaign so far and topped a difficult group ahead of the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus to reach this stage.
Andreas Skov Olsen and Ferran Jutgla have both missed the last two matches for Brugge due to respective hip and back injuries and so they are doubts for the match and are not expected to feature. Tajon Buchanan is also a doubt for the match after picking up an injury against Royale Union SG in the club’s last match.
The visitors will likely be cautious with forward Goncalo Ramos since the striker has only just returned from injury. He played 45 minutes against Braga last Thursday but his game-time fitness will determine whether he has a spot in the starting lineup. This is a similar case for Rafa Silva who has only just returned from injury. However, he has featured off the bench in both of Benfica’s last two matches.
Champions League Form
Being one of the surprise packages at this season’s tournament, Belgian champions Brugge qualified for the knockouts in second place in Group B, suffering just one defeat over their six matches. An emphatic 4-0 defeat at home to group winners Porto failed to harm their round of 16 hopes and three victories in their opening three matches was enough to secure qualification.
Those three wins were impressive in their own right too, defeating Bayer Leverkusen 1-0, before dismantling Porto 4-0 at the Estádio do Dragão and recording a 2-0 win over Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Brugge also kept an astonishing five clean sheets across their six group matches.
Carl Hoefkens was the man in charge who oversaw those victories and the qualification but poor domestic form saw him relieved of his duties at the end of the year. The club have now turned to Scott Parker as the man to deliver success.
Benfica also pulled off a few surprises after they finished top of Group H ahead of heavyweights PSG and Juventus. The Portuguese outfit were full of goals in the group stages, registering the joint-third highest total, only behind the likes of Napoli and Bayern Munich.
Manager Roger Schmidt led his side to an undefeated campaign in this season’s Champions League thus far, picking up four wins and drawing twice en route to topping their group. The two stalemates both came against PSG but that is certainly no reason to worry due to the calibre of players that the Parisians hold.
Impressive 4-3 and 2-1 victories against Juve displayed the quality that this Benfica side has and they will have high aspirations for this year’s competition as they aim to reach further than the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
UCL 22/23 Key Stats:
Goals For: Brugge 7, Benfica 16
Goals Against: Brugge 4, Benfica 7
Both Teams to Score %: Brugge 0%, Benfica 83.33%
Over 2.5 goals %: Brugge 33.33%, Benfica 50%
Both Brugge and Benfica are yet to meet and the two sides will battle it out for the first time in their history on Wednesday. This is the first time that the hosts will be playing in the knockouts of the Champions League, having failed to make it out of the group stage in all nine of their other competition appearances.
However, this is not the first time that Benfica have progressed further and they have their fair share of experience in the knockouts. Last season, they managed to reach the quarter-finals before being dumped out by Liverpool. Nevertheless, Benfica are still yet to go further than the quarter-finals, having failed to progress further than that stage a total of five times in the past.
Brugge enter this matchup after a poor showing in the Jupiler Pro League for 2023. Parker is yet to oversee a spike in form and the club began the year with a 3-1 defeat away to Genk, before drawing their next three games. Three important points away to Zulte Waregem would follow but that would be met with two draws since, meaning they have slipped to fourth in the table.
Hans Vanaken and Noah Lang have offered bright sparks for the home side and have scored two goals a piece in their last four matches. However, it is the defence that will offer the biggest concern for Blauw-Zwart, having kept just one clean sheet in their last ten matches in all competitions.
The visitors enter this one in fine form and are undefeated in the league in 2023, drawing just once and winning their other five games. However, they do head into the away leg against Brugge after a defeat on the road to Braga in the quarter-finals of the Taca de Portugal that also saw both Alexander Bah and Morato dismissed. Nevertheless, there is definitely a feel-good factor in Schmidt’s camp with his side sitting pretty at the top of Primeira Liga.
Joao Mario and World Cup star Ramos have been in excellent form too for the Águias and are the joint-top goalscorers in the division with 12 goals each. The former has also scored back-to-back braces in his last two league matches, with a total of five goals in his last three consecutive Primeira Liga games.
Prediction & Suggested Bets
Brugge 1-3 Benfica @ 14/1 Benfica’s domestic form sees them big favourites for the match and we can’t see anything but a win for the visitors. Schmidt has got his side scoring plenty of goals and Parker cannot keep them out for Brugge. The Portuguese side have all the momentum heading into this one so we are backing a comfortable Benfica triumph.
Joao Mario Anytime Goalscorer @ 13/5 Mario’s excellent run of form domestically gives great value for him to be an anytime goalscorer. The 30-year-old also scored four goals in the group stage and is the designated penalty taker.
Brandon Mechele to be Carded @ 11/4 Despite not picking up a single card in any of Brugge’s Champions League matches so far this term, Brandon Mechele has been a card magnet in his last three consecutive matches and there’s every chance that trend could continue here.
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