Benfica vs Ajax Champions League round of 16 preview: Where to watch, predicted line-ups, squad changes
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
When is it? How can you watch it? What are the possible line-ups? All you need to know about the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg between Benfica and Ajax.
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Benfica and Ajax meet in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg on Wednesday 23 February.
Benfica vs Ajax at a glance
When: Wednesday 23 February (21:00 CET kick-off)
Where: Estadio do SL Benfica, Lisbon
What: UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg (second leg 15 March)
Who: Group E runners-up Benfica vs Group C winners Ajax
How to follow: Build-up and live coverage will appear here
Where to watch Benfica vs Ajax on TV
Fans can find their local UEFA Champions League broadcast partner(s) here.
What do you need to know?
Two-time European champions Benfica are taking on four-time holders Ajax for a quarter-final place. The sides last met in the 2018/19 group stage, drawing 1-1 in Lisbon after Ajax won the Amsterdam leg 1-0. The Dutch side also eliminated the Eagles in the quarter-finals en route to the 1969 European Cup final, and the semi-finals as they went on to win the 1972 edition. Ajax have competition top scorer Sébastien Haller leading the line.
Benfica: Vlachodimos; Gilberto, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Rafa Silva, Weigl, Taarabt, Everton; Darwin Nuñez, Gonçalo Ramos
Ajax: Pasveer; Mazraoui, Timber, Martínez, Blind; Edson Álvarez, Berghuis, Gravenberch; Antony, Haller, Tadić
Away goals rule abolished
There has been a rule change for 2021/22: ties level after the second leg will go to extra time and a penalty shoot-out if required, irrespective of the number of away goals a team has scored.
Since Matchday 6 (all competitions, most recent first): DWWLLDWDWLLWWW
Where they stand: 3rd in Liga, League Cup runners-up
Since Matchday 6: WWWWWWWWWWL
Where they stand: 1st in Eredivisie, Dutch Cup semi-finals
Carlos Macahdo, Benfica reporter
Benfica were pretty competitive against Ajax in the 2018/19 group stage, but this time the odds are quite different as the Eagles are inconsistent – capable of great moments followed by a shutdown that results in poor performances and results. Ajax are clear favourites, as they showed against Sporting CP, but Benfica have players up front that can hurt them if they play to their strengths. A reboot is needed after the second 45 minutes of last Friday's draw at Boavista, a game in which they were great until half-time and then were lucky not to lose in the second period.
Derek Brookman, Ajax reporter
Ajax have been in imperious form of late, regaining top spot in the Eredivisie and reaching the semi-finals of the Dutch Cup. Having put nine goals past Benfica's rivals and reigning Primeira Liga champions Sporting CP during the group stage, the Dutch champions will go into this match in fine fettle, especially as competition top marksman Sébastien Haller has been on fire since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations.
What the coaches say
Nélson Veríssimo, Benfica coach: "It's my debut as a coach in the first team. It is an important match, but more important than it is for me, it's important for the team. We are going to face an opponent with a lot of quality. Ajax are currently one of the best teams in Europe. They have strengths, but also weaknesses that we'll want to exploit. We know it will be difficult, but we are motivated. We have to keep possession and also defend without the ball. Honestly, I think it's 50/50."
Erik Ten Hag, Ajax coach: "We have studied how Benfica play and we'll be more than ready. We are thinking about a good game plan, but in the end the players have to make the right decisions and read the game really well in order to win it."
In: Gil Dias
Out: Ronaldo Camará, Gedson Fernandes, Ferro, Pedro Ganchas, Lucas Verissimo, Pizzi
In: Brian Brobbey*, Mohamed Ihattaren
Out: Max De Waal, Terrence Douglas, Giovanni, David Neres
*Registered to List B. Each club is entitled to register an unlimited number of players on List B during the season. The list must be submitted by no later than 24.00CET on the day before the match in question.