0 - 1
Feb 14, 201313:00 Live
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Stadium: BayArena (Leverkusen)
This match has ended. Upcoming related matches:
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Benfica will return to Germany to take on a Bayer Leverkusen side that they eliminated from this same competition in the 1993/94 campaign. A memorable two leg affair between the Portuguese and the Germans will go down as one of the greatest games in a European Competition.
The Lisbon side drew 1-1 at the old Estadio da Luz in the first match.
A chaotic second match in Germany is what most fans will remember. Leverkusen had a 2-0 lead, giving them a 3-1 aggregate lead. The many Benfica fans at the stadium were beginning to lose faith, but the Benfica players and their manager Toni firmly believed they could overcome the Germans.
Goals from Abel Xavier and Joao Pinto put the Portuguese side even at two goals, before Kulkov gave Benfica a 3-2 lead late in the match. Complete disbelief was the best word to describe the German reaction, while Benfica fans were still trying to figure out how this comeback was possible.
Leverkusen's Kirsten and Hapal turned the match on its head with two quick goals, now leaving Benfica down 4-3. What an emotional match for both fans, players and managers, but the scoring was not done yet.
Joao Pinto's brilliant trickery in the midfield allowed him to avoid two defenders before slotting a perfectly weighted pass to Kulkov, who with a right footed strike leveled the match at 4-4. Once again, the Benfica players had overcome the odds, leaving them clueless as how to even celebrate this goal.
Almost 20 years later, Benfica returns to Germany to take on Bayer Leverkusen.
Sami Hyypia, Leverkusen's manager, believes that Benfica is the favorite heading into Thursday's match, despite the German's playing at home.
"We are going to play against a very strong team, especially one on one in the offensive half. It is an important match and we want to achieve a positive result for us to have a good chance at the Estadio da Luz," said the former Finland international on Wednesday.
"Benfica has a well respected name in the world of football and it is not a coincidence that they generally play in the Champions League. We respect them, but we are playing at home and in the last weeks we have not played all that bad."
Jorge Jesus' side has done well domestically, having gone unbeaten in the league. They are tied on 46 points with Porto for the top sport in the Portuguese League.
Leverkusen has not been all that bad themselves, but Bayern Munich's dominance has them 16 points back from the Bavarians, although they are third in the German Bundesliga.
At home, Leverkusen has only lost one match, which was against Borussia Dortmund just a few weeks ago.
For Benfica, they have been equally as good away from home as they have been at the Estadio da Luz. Eight victories and two draws away from Lisbon has helped the Aguias stay even on points with Porto.
03-01-94 Benfica 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen
03-15-94 Bayer Leverkusen 4-4 Benfica
Benfica tends to struggle against German teams, and the match history speaks for itself. In 10 official matches on German soil, Benfica has only managed one victory, four draws and five defeats. Their only victory came in a 0-2 result away to Stuttgart in the 2010/11 Europa League campaign.
Oscar Cardozo and Eduardo Salvio scored the goals for the Portuguese side.
Thursday will prove to be another very difficult task for Benfica against Bayer Leverkusen. The hosts have been very strong at home and they will be motivated not only by their fans, but knowing the history of this fixture will give everyone involved a boost of confidence.
Jorge Jesus has three wins, two losses and one draw against German sides since he arrived at Benfica.
The offensive approach Benfica has adopted since Jorge Jesus arrived has proven to be very difficult to defend, but can leave the Aguias defense vulnerable at times.
Leverkusen will be aware of Benfica's mental lapses, especially if they watched their last match against Nacional, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
Given the previous history in this fixture, all the players involved will be aware of what is at stake. While another 4-4 draw is most likely not going to happen, we could be in for a very up tempo and highly entertaining match.
Leverkusen will be dependent on leading scorer Stefan Kiesling to lead the way for them as he has done in the Bundesliga, scoring 14 of their 41 goals.
Although Hyypia has labeled Benfica as the favorite, their history in Germany does not give them the edge. What may give the Portuguese side an advantage is their experience in European Competitions, something Hyypia pointed out.
After all is said and done, Kiesling could give Leverkusen hope as they head back to Lisbon for the second leg.
Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Benfica