Two-time winners of this competition (back when it was known as the Champions Cup) start their 23/24 campaign with a home tie against the top side in Austria, RB Salzburg.
We take a look at this game from the Estadio da Luz and pick out a bet or two that you should consider when betting on this one…
Benfica won the title last year following a short spell where they weren’t the clear top dog in the Primeira Liga. They had won in five straight seasons in the mid to late part of the last decade before a short spell where Porto and Sporting took the honours. Last time out though they got over the line to restore their position as Portugal’s top club.
A strong defence laid the foundation for their impressive season where Roger Schmidt’s side had the best backline in the league. What might be a little bit surprising was their defensive record was actually better on the road. They conceded 12 times in front of their own fans whilst letting in just eight on their travels.
The Portuguese champions also boasted the best attack in the league. Couple those two statistics together and we might be getting close to finding out why they won the league. They scored a total of 48 times in just 17 league games at home, which is only just shy of three a game, indicating that they score plenty in front of their own fans.
Looking at RB Salzburg and they were a pretty comfortable winner of the Austrian Bundesliga last season. Gerhard Struber’s side managed to go through their whole domestic season with just the solitary defeat, a 2-1 reversal at Sturm Graz early on but outside of that, it was 23 wins and eight draws from their 32 games.
Both sides were the Champions League proper a year ago and whilst RB Salzburg could only finish third behind Chelsea and AC Milan, thereby dropping into the Europa League. Benfica won a group featuring heavyweights such as PSG and Juventus before finally succumbing at the Quarter-Final stage, losing out 3-5 on aggregate to eventual beaten finalists, Inter Milan.
The star man for Benfica a year ago has departed for PSG, so don’t expect to see Goncalo Ramos feature. Petar Musa is expected to start through the middle with the 25-year-old Croatian striker having big boots to fill. Joao Mario scored 17 times last season from the wing and he’ll be important for the home side.
19-year-old Karim Konate is starting to attract attention from scouts following an impressive start to the season. He spent the 22/23 campaign on loan at Liefering in the second division in Austria and scored 15 times in 16 games. Upon his return to his parent club, he’s already found the back of the net six times in all competitions. Strahinja Paviovic missed the game at the weekend through illness and he would be a huge miss for them, should he fail to recover in time for the trip to Portugal.
No-one will faint at the news that Benfica are very short odds-on favourites to get the win on Wednesday night. Betfred have the Portuguese club at just 2/5 to open their Champions League season with the full haul of three points. 18/5 is available for the draw with 13/2 the price you can get on the Austrian club to come away from the Estadio da Luz with the W.
The traders here are really unsure as to whether Salzburg will find the back of the net as they have Both Teams to Score ‘Yes’ at 4/5 with the ‘No’ option at 10/11. No doubt many expect Benfica to score considering their short price to win the game, so that price is heavily dictated by what is expected of the visitors.
Over 2.5 goals is pretty short at 4/7 with the over 3.5 a much more interesting 6/4. No players are odds-on to score anytime with Brazilian striker Arthur Cabral surprisingly the top choice to score despite not having found the back of the net this season following his summer switch from Fiorentina. The 25-year-old is likely to be on the bench but is 13/10 to open his Benfica account on Wednesday.
Bet 1 – Benfica to Win-1 @ 11/10
We’ll start out with a bit of handicap betting as I’m taking the home side to win by at least two clear goals at 11/10. Taking Benfica to win the game outright at 2/5 is just too short and offers very little value unless it is part of a deep accumulator.
They have been victorious in both of their home league games by at least this margin so far in this young season and against lesser teams they they faced last season in this competition (Club Brugge, Maccabi Haifa, Dynamo Kyiv and FC Midtjylland), they won each of those games at home by at least two.
Bet 2 – Benfica over 6.5 corners, Total Booking Points over 49.5, Benfica to win by 2+ & Joao Mario to score anytime @ 11/1
For our second bet we’ve put together a four-legged Bet Builder via our #PickYourPunt feature that does include Benfica winning by 2+ as already played above in the first bet. In addition to that I like the home side to get over 6.5 corners as I’m banking on them to be on the front foot a lot in this game.
It is also a Champions League game and we’ve seen in the Premier League how referees are throwing around cards like confetti so far this season, usually that is even worse when it comes to European competition. Lastly Joao Mario scored 17 times in the league last season but hasn’t found the back of the net in four starts this term, the winger is well and truly due.