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Champions League group stage recap: Benfica dare to dream

Jorge Jesus left Benfica at the end of 2021, but the Eagles look to be in good shape as they head for the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

Every Benfica group stage goal

Benfica reached their goal for the season when they made it through the UEFA Champions League group stage, but are now under new management. Can caretaker Nélson Veríssimo help to undo Ajax?

Round of 16: Benfica vs Ajax

Campaign so far

Highlights: Benfica 3-0 Barcelona

Group E runners-up: W2 D2 L2 F7 A9
Top scorer: Darwin Nuñez (3)

14/9: Dynamo Kyiv 0-0 Benfica
29/9: Benfica 3-0 Barcelona (Darwin Nuñez 3 79, Rafa Silva 69)
20/10: Benfica 0-4 Bayern (Sané 70 84, Everton 80 og, Lewandowski 82)
04/11: Bayern 5-2 Benfica (Lewandowski 26 61 84, Gnabry 32, Sané 49; Morato 38, Darwin Nuñez 74)
25/11: Barcelona 0-0 Benfica
08/12: Benfica 2-0 Dynamo Kyiv (Yaremchuk 16, Gilberto 22)

Campaign in ten words: Finishing above Barcelona looked impossible but Benfica pulled it off.

UEFA.com reporter's view

Group winners Bayern were just too strong, but having started the campaign seemingly scrapping for third place at best, Benfica finished above Barcelona thanks in part to an impressive 3-0 win in Lisbon. Darwin Nuñez's goals, Rafa Silva's pace and Nicolás Otamendi's resilience at the back made sure the Eagles got the job done.

What we've learned

That 3-0 win against Barcelona was the biggest surprise of the campaign, but it wasn't the only positive; notably, Benfica only conceded against Bayern in Group E. The Eagles let go of coach Jorge Jesus at the end of December, with stand-in boss Nélson Veríssimo taking a new tactical approach, but having eliminated PSV to reach the group stage, Benfica need not be overawed by round of 16 opponents Ajax.

Fantasy star performers

Highlights: Benfica 2-0 Dynamo Kyiv

Nicolás Otamendi – 40 points
Odisseas Vlachodimos – 34 points
Jan Vertonghen – 30 points

Squad changes

In: Gil Dias
Out: Ronaldo Camará, Gedson Fernandes, Ferro, Pedro Ganchas, Lucas Verissimo

Clubs could register a maximum of three new eligible players prior to the knockout stage. Since 2018/19, it no longer matters whether those players have already played in the competition for another club, even for another club still in the competition.

Key stats

• The Lisbon giants have reached seven European Cup finals but have lost their last five, most recently against AC Milan in 1990.

• Benfica's record in two-legged ties against clubs from the Netherlands is W7 L3, with this season's play-off success against PSV making it five straight wins.

• The Portuguese side have made it to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 for the sixth time, and are trying to reach the quarter-finals for the fifth time.