The UEFA Champions League has reached the business end of the competition. It's knockout football. There is no margin for error, there can be no more slip-ups. Ahead of the round of 16, we take a closer look at how Benfica made it through the group stage and assess their chances of marching into the quarter-finals.
Benfica edged over the line with the lowest qualifying points-total in this season’s group stage, having only won two of their six matches. They are yet to really hit form in the competition, but, if they do so in the last 16, they will no doubt provide serious opposition to German powerhouse Dortmund.
The most thrilling night of the Portuguese club’s UCL campaign thus far was no doubt the six-goal thriller versus Besiktas in Istanbul on Matchday 5. In a game of two halves, Benfica put in their finest 45 minutes of the season to race to a three-goal lead by the break. A remarkable second-half fightback saw the game end in a disappointing draw, but one that ultimately sealed their qualification.
Coming into Matchday 6, there was everything to play for in the most exciting group in this season’s competition. Benfica hosted Napoli with both teams locked on eight points. With Besiktas just one behind and up against already-eliminated FC Dynamo Kyiv, there appeared no room for error. Benfica fell 2-1, but squeezed through after Besiktas suffered a shock 6-0 defeat in Ukraine.
No Benfica player saw more UCL action than the 474 minutes from Eduardo Salvio in the group stage. The flying Argentinian forward is also his team’s top-scorer in the competition thus far, having successfully converted three penalties in the 2016-17 Champions League. Quick, penetrative, inventive and a constant goal-threat, he will be key to Benfica’s hopes of securing a quarter-final place.
Benfica also hit ten goals in their six matches so have the firepower to cause Tuchel’s side problems, but will face a very tough task against a Dortmund side that broke the record for goals scored in a single UEFA Champions League group stage after netting 21 in their six games. Talented young Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson will no doubt have a big role to play.