AEK vs Benfica – Tuesday, October 2, 20:00 BST/21:00 CEST – OAKA Spyros Louis, Athens, Greece
AEK will be celebrating their return to the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday against Benfica. The Athens based club won their first title since 1994 last spring.
It was one of the most controversial Greek championships in recent history. AEK were neck on neck with Thessaloniki based club PAOK for much of the season. Ultimately, the title was decided in the courtrooms of the Greek football federation as PAOK president Ivan Savvidis interfered at the PAOK vs AEK matchup by storming onto the pitch with a gun holstered to his belt.
The 12th title in AEK’s history qualified the Greek club for the UEFA Champions League third round qualifying where they eliminated Celtic 3-2 on aggregate. In the playoffs, they beat Hungarian champions Vidi by the same aggregate scoreline.
Drawn in Group E with Bayern, Benfica and Ajax, AEK opened the Champions League in Amsterdam against Ajax. That match, however, saw AEK being outclassed by last year’s Eredivisie runner-ups with Ajax walking away with a 3-0 victory.
Now on matchday 2 AEK are hosting Benfica. There is some history between the two teams. The two clubs met in the 2009/10 Europa League season. AEK won 1-0 in Athens on 1 October 2009 – almost nine years to the day before this encounter – before a 2-1 Benfica success in Lisbon.
Portuguese runner-ups Benfica are looking back at a difficult stretch of Champions League football. The Lisbon based club lost every single group stage match last season and opened this season with a 2-0 defeat to Bayern München.
There has been some success for Benfica against Greek based clubs this season, however. Paired with PAOK in the playoffs Benfica were clinical against last year’s Greek Super League runner-ups. A 1-1 draw at home was followed with a 4-1 victory away at the Stadio Toumba in Greece.
What needs to follow is a victory in the group stage, however – even if one includes the victory against PAOK Benfica have lost only two of their last ten fixtures outside of Portugal (D2 L6). A poor record but Benfica will be the favourites on Tuesday and, therefore, will have an excellent chance to improve on their record.
AEK vs Benfica – Players to look out for:
Ezequiel Ponce #22 – AEK Athens
On loan from Roma Ezequiel Ponce had a great start at AEK. The 21-year-old Argentine striker has already scored two goals in three Greek Super League matches this season. Signed by Roma from Newell’s Old Boys in 2015 Ponce is already on his third loan spell and the Italian side hope that Champions League football will provide Ponce with the next stage in his development.
Jonas #10 – Benfica
Brazilian striker Jonas could make his return to the starting eleven on Tuesday. The striker was out for several weeks with a neck problem. But the 34-year-old played 18′ minutes against Desportivo Aves and 10′ minutes against GD Chaves on matchday 5 and 6 of the Liga NOS. The veteran has scored 122 goals in 154 games for Benfica, and his return would give Benfica a significant edge in Tuesday match against AEK.
AEK vs Benfica – Match Stats
- AEK are in the group stage for the fifth time – and the first since 2006/07. Then they were unbeaten at home, picking up seven points in Athens and beating LOSC Lille and eventual champions AC Milan 1-0.
- All four of the Athens club’s previous UEFA Champions League group campaigns have ended at that stage.
- Last season AEK lost to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League third qualifying round and moved into the Europa League, where Dynamo Kyiv ultimately eliminated them in the round of 32 despite avoiding defeat in all ten of their matches in the competition (W2 D8).
- The matchday one loss to Bayern means the Eagles have won only three of their last 15 continental fixtures (D3 L9).
- Before this season, Benfica had lost four successive European away games and were without a win in five. Despite the PAOK victory, they have won only two of their last ten fixtures outside Portugal (D2 L6).
- The Eagles’ next UEFA Champions League goal will be their 100th in the competition, group stage to final
- Benfica’s eight successive UEFA Champions League defeats, and six consecutive games without scoring, are both Portuguese records.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: AEK vs Benfica – 0-2
AEK vs Benfica – Lineups
Barkas – Hult, Lampropoulos, Oikonomou, Bekakis – Simões, Galanopoulos – Mantaios, Livaja, Bakasetas – Ponce
Head Coach: Marinos Ouzounidis
Vlachodimos – Grimaldo, Dias, Jardel, Almeida – Fejsa – Cervi, Pizzi, Gedson Fernandes – Jonas
Head Coach: Rui Vitória
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.