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.
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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.
• 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
• 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 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.
• 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.
• 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.