Barcelona vs Benfica Champions League LIVE Football Score 23 Nov 2021
Seeking to assure themselves of a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, Barcelona welcome Benfica to Camp Nou on Tuesday evening.
The Catalan powerhouses will hope that lightning does not strike twice against Jorge Jesus‘s side, who sunk Barca 3-0 when the sides met earlier in Group E.
As Bayern Munich ride off into the sunset, Barcelona are performing a slow crawl to the finish line by comparison, but all three points in front of their own fans will guarantee them their rightful place in the knockout stages.
The Camp Nou faithful will need no reminding of how they were swept aside by Benfica during Ronald Koeman‘s reign, and the Dutchman had cleared out his office before the trip to Dynamo Kiev on matchday four, as a Sergi Barjuan-led side won 1-0 thanks to Ansu Fati‘s 70th-minute effort.
Xavi‘s reign as Blaugrana head coach officially kicked off with Sunday’s visit of Espanyol in the Barcelona derby, during which a Memphis Depay penalty in the 48th minute saw the Catalans get off to the perfect start in La Liga under their legendary midfield maestro.
Currently second in Group E with six points to their name, Barca are at risk of being usurped by Benfica should they fall to defeat against the Portuguese giants once more, and a draw will hardly be satisfactory given that they face runaway leaders Bayern on the final matchday.
Barca failing to make it out of the Champions League group stages would represent a new low for a club bedevilled by countless off-the-field issues in 2021, but La Blaugrana can at least boast a four-game unbeaten run in all competitions ahead of this encounter, and they have scored in each of their last seven at home.
Despite catching the eye with their 3-0 thrashing of Barcelona on matchday two, a pair of heavy defeats at the hands of Bayern Munich has Benfica’s hopes of a place in the Champions League knockout rounds hanging by a thread.
Bayern conceded their first goals of the 2021-22 tournament to Morato and Darwin Nunez on matchday four, but a Robert Lewandowski hat-trick alongside strikes from Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane ultimately saw Benfica humbled at the Allianz Arena.
Jesus’s side will usurp Barca into second should they come away from Camp Nou with all three points, but Benfica will have to make do with a spot in the Europa League if their pursuit of victory in Catalonia ends in failure before they meet Dynamo Kiev on the final day.
The visitors could afford to rest a number of their big-hitters on Friday for their Taca de Portugal clash with Pacos Ferreira and still ran out comfortable 4-1 winners, but Benfica have won just one of their last 10 Champions League games on the road including qualifiers.
As mentioned, a double from Nunez and a 69th-minute strike from Rafa Silva propelled Benfica to a hugely impressive 3-0 win in Lisbon two months ago, but they have lost two and drawn one of their three clashes at Camp Nou, scoring only once in that run.
Barcelona were handed a triple injury scare with Nico Gonzalez, Oscar Mingueza and Sergio Busquets in the derby with Espanyol, but Xavi is confident that none of them left the pitch with anything serious.
The Catalan coach also dismissed reports claiming that Sergio Aguero had decided to retire due to heart problems, but the Argentine is still out of contention alongside Martin Braithwaite, Pedri and Ansu Fati, while Ousmane Dembele has not been ruled out.
Sergino Dest is back in full training, and Ronald Araujo‘s return to fitness could see Eric Garcia‘s place at the back come under threat, while Yusuf Demir and Philippe Coutinho will both hope to displace Ilias Akhomach following his surprise start at the weekend.
As for Benfica, Valentino Lazaro and Andre Almeida have recovered from recent issues, but Lucas Verissimo remains sidelined with a knee problem.
Midfielder Joao Mario has also been struggling with a back injury and has only just made his return to training, while Nemanja Radonjic came off after 51 minutes of Friday’s win and is set to miss out.
The likes of Roman Yaremchuk and Pizzi could both return to the first XI for this encounter, as Odysseas Vlachodimos returns to take his place in goal.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Araujo, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, De Jong; Dest, Depay, Coutinho
Benfica possible starting lineup:
Vlachodimos; Otamendi, Morato, Vertonghen; Gilberto, Pizzi, Weigl, Grimaldo; Silva, Yaremchuk, Nunez