PAOK Thessaloniki vs Benfica / Champions League – Before the first match, Benfica was certainly a favourite in the group stage but since that match in Lisbon ended with a score of 1-1, the situation has changed drastically and now PAOK has a great opportunity to reach the group stage of this elite competition, which would be a great achievement for this vice-champion of Greece. Meanwhile, the Greek championship has begun, and PAOK has celebrated in the first round, while Benfica played a draw in the city derby.
PAOK Thessaloniki vs Benfica Begins: 29.08.2018 at 21:00 CET
This is a historic opportunity for PAOK to win placement in the group stage of the Champions League. In the championship, they were for years in the shadows of Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, but last season they finished second, right behind AEK and they got the chance through qualifiers. They have already eliminated two strong rivals, Basel and Spartak Moscow, but Benfica is still the biggest challenge. The harder part of the job they have done and that is the always unpleasant hosting in Lisbon where they played 1-1, which means that the victory is not even an imperative, and they still have not felt the bitterness of defeat this season.
Last weekend, they have started the championship with a victory over Asteras in the first round, with 1-0 on their field. It was not easy and the only goal scored was by Prijovic through a penalty in the second half. Coach Lucescu has made some changes and center-back Varela was not in the team, as well as Mauricio, Limnios and Pelkas. We now expect probably be the strongest forces on the field again.
Probable lineups PAOK Thessaloniki: Paschalakis – Matos, Varela, Crespo, Vierinha – Mauricio, Canas – Limnios, Pelkas, El Kaddouri – Prijovic
After the eliminated of a stronger rival in the third qualifying round, which Fenerbahce is on paper, Benfica hoped that it should be easier against PAOK, however, they are in a very unpleasant situation now and are close to the elimination from the Champions League. They have managed to take the lead on their field against Fenerbahce, and they went in the rematch with 1-0, where they played a draw. They also had the lead against PAOK, but they have failed to preserve it, so that match ended with 1-1 just like the championship derby with Sporting. The difference is that they were losing in that match and in the finish they tied the result thanks to a goal by their reservist Felix.
It was the first championship match in which they did not win, because they in the first two rounds mastered the teams Guimaraes and Boavista. When it comes to their composition, coach Rui Vitoria does not have much space to rotate the players because a lot of them are injured, and compared to the first duel against PAOK, only Rafa Silva has replaced Zivkovic against Sporting. They have in the meantime brought Corchi from Sevilla, but he is out of action, just like Salvio, Jonas, Castillo and goalkeeper Varela.
Probable lineups Benfica: Vlachodimos – Almeida, Dias, Jardel, Grimaldo – Fejsa, Fernandes, Pizzi, Rafa Silva – Cervi, Ferreyra
PAOK Thessaloniki vs Benfica PICK
PAOK has a great opportunity, but Benfica is inexperienced when it comes to the Champions League and they are aware that they cannot pass further without a goal, which is why we expect them to achieve at least one. The Greek vice-champion is the host and they are traditionally better, so they should also score in this match.
Pick: both teams will score
Odds: 1.83 at williamhill (down to 1.73 can be played)
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