Bayern Munich will face a serious test of their Champions League credentials against Benfica tonight as they dream of giving Pep Guardiola the perfect send-off from the club.
A 1-0 win in Munich last week has put the Bavarians ahead in the tie, but they must successfully navigate a further 90 or 120 minutes if they want to advance to a fifth straight semi-final.
And the 2013 European champions are well aware they cannot celebrate yet. “It was a good result (in the first leg), but it was not a cushion we can relax on. We still expect a very difficult challenge. There’s definitely a lot of pressure, also for us”, Bayern’s director of sport Matthias Sammer said at a press conference in Munich.
Guardiola leave Bayern for Manchester City at the end of the season. The Bavarians are red-hot favourites to retain their Bundesliga title but the Champions League would be the perfect finale to Guardiola’s tenure in Munich.
Bayern had looked set to cruise into the last four, when Arturo Vidal’s second-minute strike put them ahead last week. However, Benfica showed their battling qualities to restrict Guardiola’s side to just that one goal and, buoyed by the achievement of compatriots Porto in beating Bayern 3-1 in Portugal last season, will be confident of pulling off a shock by reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 1990.
“They have one of the best defences in Europe,” Bayern defender Javi Martinez said of Benfica on his club’s website. “They defend very high up the field and are very aggressive and tight, which makes it hard to pass. But we will try to win the game because that is the Bayern mentality.”
A draw would do for Guardiola’s men, while Benfica will be forced to come out of their defensive shell to attack them, which could play into the German club’s hands.
“If we get a goal, then there’s a big chance that we will go through,” captain Philipp Lahm said to Kicker magazine. “I have no doubt about it.”
Benfica’s hopes could be dented by the absence of two strikers. Jonas, who has scored 18 goals this season, will definitely miss out through suspension, and Nico Gaitan is doubtful with injury.
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