Benfica out to qualify, Astana up against it

Benfica are in pole position in Group C and another victory in Astana will propel them into the round of 16, while the Kazakh side know it is a case of win or bust.

Astana's Branko Ilić tracks Benfica playmaker Nicolás Gaitán on matchday one
Astana's Branko Ilić tracks Benfica playmaker Nicolás Gaitán on matchday one ©AFP/Getty Images

A narrow success against Galatasaray AŞ on UEFA Champions League matchday four has put SL Benfica in pole position in Group C and another three points away to FC Astana will secure them a last-16 berth.

• Benfica are through with a win, or a draw provided Galatasaray AŞ do not beat Club Atlético de Madrid. If Benfica prevail and Atlético do not, Benfica clinch first place.

• Only a victory will keep alive Astana's hopes – lose or draw and they will finish in fourth if Galatasaray overcome Atlético.

• On matchday one, Astana's group stage debut ended in a 2-0 defeat as Nicolás Gaitán and Kostas Mitroglou scored second-half goals for Benfica.

Match background

Astana
• The first representatives from Kazakhstan to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage followed up their opening-night defeat with a 2-2 draw at home to Galatasaray. They then lost 4-0 in Spain but gained their second point with a 0-0 draw against Atlético two weeks later.

• Participation in the group stage was secured 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 3-1 at home to overturn a 1-0 away reverse.

Benfica
• Their 11th UEFA Champions League group stage campaign continued with a 2-1 win at Atlético on matchday two. They then succumbed 2-1 in Istanbul before beating Galatasaray by the same score two weeks later.

• The Eagles lost two of their away fixtures in last season's group stage and drew the other 0-0 at AS Monaco FC. They finished fourth in Group C with five points.

• In only one of their last seven UEFA Champions League campaigns (2011/12) have the Lisbon outfit – European Champion Clubs' Cup winners in 1961 and 1962 – qualified for the knockout rounds. That season, Chelsea FC defeated them 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.

Coach and player links
• Stanimir Stoilov played for Portuguese side SC Campomaiorense between 1995 and 1997 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

Astana
• Patrick Twumasi is available after completing a four-game European ban, while Dzholchiyev serves a one-match suspension. Georgi Zhukov will incur a ban with his next booking.

• Astana retained the Kazakh Premier League title after a 1-0 victory – secured by substitute Kabananga's 87th-minute goal – against FK Aktobe on 8 November. Stoilov's team finished a point ahead of Kairat Almaty.

• Astana lost 2-1 to holders Kairat in the Kazakh Cup final on Saturday, despite taking the lead through Twumasi.

Benfica
• Luisão, Gonçalo Guedes, André Almeida and Jardel are a booking away from a ban. Nicolás Gaitán serves a one-game suspension.

• Benfica were beaten 2-1 after extra time by Sporting Clube de Portugal in the Portuguese Cup fourth round on Saturday, Kostas Mitroglou having given the Eagles the lead. Andreas Samaris (114) was sent off. 

• On Sunday, Luisão underwent surgery having broken his left forearm late on against Sporting. 

• The Eagles have won six of their last nine fixtures in all competitions.

• Teenager Gonçalo Guedes, who scored the opener in the 2-0 home victory over Boavista FC on 8 November, made his senior Portugal debut in a friendly against Russia six days later. The 18-year-old then came off the bench away to Luxembourg on 17 November.

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