For the first time in more than a decade, Benfica will have a foreign manager at the helm as German tactician Roger Schmidt looks to win fans over by making it a 12th UEFA Champions League (UCL) group stage qualification across the last 13 seasons. Last campaign’s quarter-finalists will, however, have to navigate through two qualifying rounds without last season’s top-scorer Darwin Núñez (34 goals) who left this summer.
Núñez’s departure, and the fact Benfica are playing their first competitive match of the season, still hasn’t stopped the bookies from making the Eagles warm favourites for this tie. Last season’s form may play a part in that, as Benfica cruised through the two UCL qualifying legs that season (W3, D1), conceding just once.
Benfica are also unbeaten against Danish clubs (W12, D2), and although Midtjylland have the advantage of playing five competitive matches already, uncertainty in their dugout has left a cloud over the club. After needing penalties to advance from the previous UCL qualification round, Bo Henriksen was sacked and Henrik Jensen was placed in temporary charge, who nevertheless enjoyed a 5-1 league win in his first game.
Midtjylland experienced all three European competitions last season, but it is their debut UCL appearance from 2020/21 that they would love to replicate this season. Keeping the contest alive for the second leg would be a giant step towards achieving that and having lost only once across their last four UCL road trips (W1, D2, L1), the Wolves might be quietly confident of springing a surprise.
Key battle: Nicolás Otamendi’s experience could be crucial for Benfica after leading his side across four UCL qualifiers last season when they conceded only once. His task will be to help stop Midtjylland’s Anders Dreyer, who warmed up with a league brace last time out. His contributions over the last four games (G3, A2) may have reminded Midtjylland fans of his 2020/21 UCL qualification exploits (G2, A2).
Hot stat: At least one side has scored 2+ goals in Benfica’s last ten home UCL games, including qualifiers.
Best Pick: At least one team will score Over 1.5 – @ 1.33