Background: Old hands Benfica face new boys Astana

Astana begin the first participation by a Kazakhstan team in the UEFA Champions League group stage with an away game at two-time winners Benfica.

Astana's Nemanja Maksimović
Astana's Nemanja Maksimović ©Getty Images

FC Astana's first foray into the UEFA Champions League group stage begins with an away game at SL Benfica, who are in the last 32 for the sixth year in a row.

Match background

Benfica
• This is their 11th UEFA Champions League group stage campaign but a first for coach Rui Vitória, who replaced Jorge Jesus in the summer.

• The Portuguese champions – European Champion Clubs' Cup winners in 1961 and 1962 – began last season with a 2-0 home defeat against FC Zenit. It was the first time in five matchday one fixtures that they had been beaten (W2 D2 previously).

• That was also their first reverse in 14 European home encounters (W11 D2) since a 2-0 loss to FC Barcelona in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage and their first in 51 home games in all competitions

• Benfica's other two home games last season ended in a 1-0 win over AS Monaco FC and 0-0 against Bayer 04 Leverkusen. They finished bottom of Group C with five points.

• In only one of their last seven UEFA Champions League campaigns (2011/12) have the Eagles qualified for the knockout rounds. That year Chelsea FC beat them 3-1 overall in the quarter-finals.

Astana
• Astana are the first ever representatives from Kazakhstan to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage.

• They secured their success with a 2-1 aggregate victory against APOEL FC in the play-off round. Nemanja Maksimović's dramatic equaliser six minutes from time in Cyprus proved decisive after Baurzhan Dzholchiyev had sealed a 1-0 first-leg success.

• In the third qualifying round Stanimir Stoilov's side won 4-3 at home against HJK Helsinki after a goalless away leg. In the previous round they defeated NK Maribor, winning 3-1 at home to overturn a 1-0 reverse away.

Coach and player links
• Stoilov played for Portuguese side SC Campomaiorense between 1995–97 and faced Benfica twice, losing 2-0 in Lisbon and drawing 0-0 at home.

• Mehdi Carcela-González and Georgi Zhukov both came through the academy at R. Standard de Liège.

• Carcela-González and Junior Kabananga faced each other several times in Belgium while playing for Standard and Cercle Brugge KSV respectively.

• Ljubomir Fejsa made his debut for Serbia against Kazakhstan in November 2007.

Match facts

Benfica
• Rui Vitória started his Benfica reign by losing 1-0 in the Portuguese Super Cup to a Sporting Clube de Portugal side coached by former Eagles boss Jorge Jesus.

• Academy product Nélson Semedo marked his Benfica debut with a goal as Estoril Praia were beaten 4-0 on the opening day of the Liga campaign.

• Injured on the final day of last season, Eduardo Salvio underwent right knee surgery on 9 September.

• On 10 September, Jonas extended his contract until summer 2018.

Astana
• Patrick Twumasi is suspended following his red card in the third qualifying round second leg against HJK.

• Astana have lost only four of their 34 matches in all competitions in 2015.

• All of those defeats have been away from home – their last setback at Astana Arena was a 3-0 reverse against Villarreal CF in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League play-offs.

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