UEFA Champions League Group G preview: Barca, Benfica set to clash
By Football News
Barcelona can build on their lead atop Group G in Champions League, when they visit Benfica in Portugal.
The Spanish giants - who have made the semi-final stages in Europe five seasons in succession, winning the illustrious trophy twice in the process - will hope to continue that run under new coach Tito Vilanova when go to the Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica.
Barcelona have had a perfect start to their domestic and continental campaigns, with six wins from six in Spain and their 3-2 home win over Spartak Moscow on matchday one.
That win was the first of a run of three that saw Barcelona score critical goals in the 80th minute or later, in a sign of the spirit the Nou Camp squad have to fight on late in games to earn the full three points.
However, Benfica - albeit in an inferior league - have arrested a deficit on three separate occasions in their past two domestic clashes to earn four points and sit top of the Liga Sagres, in a clear sign Jorge Jesus' men also have that 'never give in' ethic drummed into them.
They will need it in droves, though, to defeat the star-studded Barcelona outfit, who have made the European competition their own in recent times.
Spartak Moscow will be ready to reap some rewards from their admirable loss to Barcelona in their opening group-stage game, when they host Celtic at the Olympic Stadium in the Russian capital.
Moscow coach Unai Emery saw his side lead at the Nou Camp with less than 20 minutes remaining, only for a Lionel Messi brace to break Spartak hearts.
Three wins since - two in the league, and one in the cup - has seen the Russian side continue their good form, however a worrying trend for Emery's men is they have not kept a clean sheet in their past 12 matches.
Celtic, meanwhile, have won three of their past four - drawing the other with Benfica in the group stages - keeping clean sheets in three matches, and conceding only in the Scottish Cup win over Raith Rovers.