Benfica and Ajax come together in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 match-up, with the Portuguese giants playing host on Wednesday at 8pm (UK time).
Nelson Verissimo will be taking charge of his first Champions League game after succeeding Jorge Jesus earlier this season, but his debut in the dugout for Europe’s blue riband competition is quite the baptism of fire, as he takes on a side who won all six of their group-stage games this campaign. Ajax will be looking to repeat their fairytale exploits from the 2018/19 campaign under Erik ten Hag — and they certainly look good value to cause another splash.
Benfica vs Ajax betting tips from Squawka Bet
- Sebastian Haller to score 2+ goals @ 13/2 with Paddy Power
- Benfica to receive the first card @ 10/11 with Sky Bet
Benfica team news vs Ajax: Five Eagles walking the tightrope
Haris Seferovic, Rodrigo Pinho and Lucas Verissimo are the only major injury concerns for the hosts, with the latter duo expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering respective ACL ruptures during the autumn months. Julian Weigl, Nicolas Otamendi, Joao Mario, Rafa Silva and Alex Grimaldo will all have to tread carefully at the Estadio da Luz as they are all just one booking away from facing a suspension for the return leg in Amsterdam.
Predicted Benfica XI vs Ajax:
- Vlachodimos; Lazaro, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Silva, Bernardo, Weigl, Everton; Ramos, Nunez. (4-4-2)
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Ajax team news vs Benfica: Antony set to star… but future in doubt
Jurrien Timber was forced off injured after netting the winning goal in Ajax’s most recent 1-0 win over Willem II, so his replacement on the day, Perr Schuurs, may deputise if he fails to recover in time. Elsewhere Brian Brobbey, Maarten Stekelenburg and Zakaria Labyad all remain out of action, with Ten Hag likely to retain Remko Pasveer between the sticks, though he does have an option to bring Andre Onana back into the fold.
Antony, who set up Timber’s match-winner at the weekend, and has been one of the latest Brazilian stars to strut their stuff in Amsterdam, should have a major say in the outcome of this contest, but his recent comments, in which he talked up a potential future move to the Premier League, will not have stirred much confidence in the club’s hierarchy that they can fend off interest if clubs come knocking.
He told De Telegraaf: “Ajax is the place where I feel happy. But of course I sometimes think about the next step that will come.
“I think the English and Spanish competitions are wonderful. When the time is right, I hope to be able to play there. When exactly? Only God knows.”
Predicted Ajax XI vs Benfica:
- Pasveer; Mazraoui, Schuurs, Martinez, Blind; Alvarez, Klaassen, Berghuis; Antony, Tadic, Haller. (4-3-3)