CSKA Moscow vs Benfica Prediction, Preview & Betting Tips
Wednesday’s Champions League schedule starts earlier than usual with a clash at the “VEB Arena” in Moscow where CSKA takes on an underperforming Benfica. After four rounds of the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League group stage are already history, surprisingly or not, Portuguese champions have a minor chance to reach the knockout phase while CSKA Moscow can make a significant step to the next round if they beat Benfica. Read more about the upcoming clash in a detailed match preview, prediction and free Champions League betting tips.
H2H History: CSKA Moscow vs Benfica
CSKA were winners by making a full comeback in Lisbon on matchday one, when Haris Seferovic opened the score for Benfica, but two goals of Vitinho and Timur Zhamaletdinov were crucial for the final 1:2.
The abovementioned result was another positive outcome for the Russians when facing Benfica, being preceded by a two-legged matchup in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup round of 32. More than twelve years ago, February 2005, CSKA won 3:1 on aggregate (2:0 at home, 1:1 in Portugal) before winning the trophy with victory against Benfica’s Lisbon rivals – Sporting CP, 3:1 at the “Estadio Jose Alvalade” in Portuguese capital.
Benfica have lost on four of their last five visits to Russia, where their overall record is: 2 wins, 2 draws and 4 defeats.
UEFA Champions League: CSKA Moscow vs Benfica 22.11.2017
Benfica must win and hope Basel will lose to Manchester United later in the same night. That’s an only scenario to keep them in contention for a top-two position, otherwise they will remain fourth and won’t even stand a chance to seek consolation in the Europa League.
“The Lisbon Eagles” fly to Moscow after losing all four Group A games and this makes their ambitions for European football in first half of 2018 very unrealistic. However, a win here can keep their hope alive and Rui Vitória’s men won’t give without a fight in the Russian cold. Their season has been disappointing so far as despite losing all Champions League encounters and scoring just once in them, Benfica is third in the Primeira Liga, remaining on five points behind current leaders Porto.
As opposed to Benfica, CSKA Moscow began their Champions League campaign from the qualifying rounds in July and August. Russian vice-champions won all qualifiers over the teams of AEK Athens and Young Boys, before winning in Lisbon, which was their fifth consecutive Champions League victory. A great beginning of CSKA’s European journey was darkened by two consecutive home losses from Manchester United (1:4) and Basel (0:2), but last round’s 1:2 win at Swiss turf keeps the Russian club in the big game.
In the meantime, Viktor Goncharenko’s men have ended their unconvincing Premier League form with a 2:4 success in Khabarovsk on Saturday, flying almost 4000 miles in one side for a domestic game. A result that came after two draws against the other two top-three sides (Zenit and Lokomotiv Moscow), as well as a defeat to Arsenal Tula. Thus the Red-Blues return at the “VEB Arena” after four consecutive away games and are keen to achieve first home victory since mid-September when they won 1:0 vs Rostov.
Match Preview: Team News, Squads and Missing Players
After the international break Benfica renewed its domestic performances with a Portuguese Cup match against Vitória Setúbal – 2:0 win on Saturday night. Rui Vitoria used that game to make a few rotations in the starting lineup while talented goalkeeper Mile Svilar has missed the match with a flu. Besides, experienced captain Luisão and right-back Andre Almeida are both available following suspensions and are likely to start next to their defensive partners – Jardel and Alex Grimaldo. The Spaniard is a doubt (Grimaldo) so experienced Eliseu can replace him at the left-back.
Midfielder Ljubomir Fejsa has picked up an injury just before the break and also missed Benfica’s Cup game. Andreas Samaris returned on the field last weekend and the Greek midfielder is a potential central midfield partner of Pizzi on Wednesday night, so Eduardo Salvio can take a position at the right wing. Salvio’s Argentine compatriot Franco Cervi looks favourite to start on the left wing, while Jonas and Haris Seferovic should form Benfica’s attacking duo.
Update: Goalkeeper Mile Svilar remained in Lisbon with injured Júlio César and Ruben Dias, while Ljubomir Fejsa travelled for Moscow.
Viktor Goncharenko has his own concerns as the Russian side struggles to find a typical striker for a long period. Vitinho is a typical attacking midfielder but has to play as a false nine, however, good news for Goncharenko are that his Brazilian playmaker has ended his goal drought and scored in each of the last two games. Moreover, Swedish midfielder Pontus Wernbloom was used as a forward during victory over SKA Khabarovsk, so he may get a nod to start on the same position against Benfica.
Unfortunately, veteran and one of the famous Berezutski brothers – Aleksei, was injured early in the weekend round so he might be replaced by another veteran in Sergei Ignashevich’s face. Naturalized right-back Mario Fernandes is also a doubt and if he fails to recover on time, then Kiril Nababkin may replace him as a wing-back. Anyway, expectations are that Fernandes should be ready to play from the outset here.
Bulgarian midfielder Georgi Milanov was also injured in the weekend and will surely miss out the decisive Champions League round. Milanov and Aleksei Berezutski have both injured their fibulas playing on -16 in Khabarovsk.
CSKA Moscow vs Benfica Prediction and Betting Tips
CSKA Moscow look pretty uncertain when playing at home not only in their current shape but historically against clubs from Portugal as well. Their victories over Portuguese sides are not in Moscow, including a 3:1 victory over Sporting CP in the 2015-16 Champions League playoffs (in Khimki), as well as the already mentioned 2:0 win over Benfica, which was held in Krasnodar. In fact, CSKA have lost all three matches against Portuguese visitors in Moscow, and have yet to score in those games.
Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has not kept a cleansheet in 43 consecutive UEFA Champions League group fixtures, since a goalless draw vs Arsenal on 1 November 2006.
The poor home record of CSKA and Akinfeev’s negative streak are surely among the glimmers of hope for Benfica. Furthermore, the Moscow hosts are those who must handle with more pressure and higher expectations over them, as they have all chances to claim the second Group A position. That’s something which may reduce the pressure in Benfica and “Eagles” will try to benefit from situation favorizing the Russian squad.
Benfica have failed to score in their last 3 Champions League outings and they may do it tonight, when they must run hard on a cold Moscow night. Our betting prediction goes on the goal scoring markets: “Both teams to score – Yes“.
Possible Lineups of CSKA Moscow and Benfica
Venue: “VEB Arena”, Moscow.
Referee: Deniz Aytekin from Germany.
CSKA Moscow: Igor Akinfeev – Viktor Vasin, Vasili Berezutski, Sergey Ignashevich – Mario Fernandes, Alan Dzagoev, Bibras Natcho, Georgi Schennikov – Aleksandr Golovin – Vitinho, Pontus Wernbloom. (3-4-1-2)
SL Benfica: Bruno Varela – Eliseu, Luisão, Jardel, Andre Almeida – Franco Cervi, Andreas Samaris, Pizzi, Toto Salvio – Jonas, Haris Seferovic. (4-4-2)