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Fortress Benfica awaits Leverkusen

SL Benfica have yet to lose a UEFA Europa League home game – a reassuring statistic as they defend a 1-0 round of 32 lead against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Lisbon.

Benfica's Nicolás Gaitán steals a march on Leverkusen's Sven Bender
Benfica's Nicolás Gaitán steals a march on Leverkusen's Sven Bender ©Getty Images

SL Benfica have plenty of good omens in their favour as they look to complete a UEFA Europa League round of 32 victory against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Lisbon.

• Óscar Cardozo's brilliant finish (61) earned Benfica a 1-0 win on a frosty night in the Rhineland, but No1 Artur had a fine night as Leverkusen's ambitions were kept in check. Prior to kick-off, Leverkusen had yet to lose or concede a goal at home in Europe this season.

Previous meetings
• The sides met in the 1993/94 European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals, Toni's Benfica ousting Dragoslav Stepanović's Leverkusen on away goals after a 1-1 draw in Lisbon and a 4-4 in Germany.

• The teams for that 1-1 draw in Lisbon on 1 March 1994 were:
Benfica: Neno, Abel Xavier, Carlos Mozer, Hélder Cristóvão (Isaías 65), António Veloso, William, Vítor Paneira, João Pinto, Yuran, Rui Costa, Aílton Delfino (César Brito 72).
Leverkusen: Vollborn, Happe, Melzig, Wörns, Foda, Lupescu, Paulo Sérgio, Becker (Fischer 78), Tolkmitt, Hapal, Thom (Rydlewicz 87).

• The teams for the 4-4 draw in Leverkusen on 15 March 1994 were:
Leverkusen: Heinen, Becker (Fischer 65), Happe, Wörns, Foda, Lupescu, Tolkmitt (Paulo Sérgio 65), Schuster, Kirsten, Hapal, Thom.
Benfica: Neno, Abel Xavier, William, Hélder Cristóvão, Schwarz, Kulkov, Vítor Paneira, João Pinto, Yuran (Rui Águas 89), Rui Costa (Hernâni 86), Isaías.

• Benfica's 37 games against German clubs have ended W11 D12 L14 (W9 D6 L2 in Lisbon – W2 D6 L12 in Germany).

• Leverkusen's record in 11 games against Portuguese sides reads W4 D3 L4 (W3 D1 L2 at home – W1 D2 L2 in Portugal).

Match background
• Benfica have won their last two European home games – in the UEFA Champions League in the autumn – while they have yet to lose in 11 home games (W10 D1) in the UEFA Europa League – play-offs included – since competing in the inaugural edition in 2009/10.

• Leverkusen have won four of their last six games on the road in the UEFA Europa League without conceding, though they lost the other two fixtures in that run.

• Benfica have never won this competition, but reached the final in 1982/83, losing out 2-1 on aggregate to RSC Anderlecht.

• Benfica came third in UEFA Champions League Group G in the autumn. They are appearing in the round of 32 for the sixth time since the introduction of the UEFA Cup group stage,  having made it through to the round of 16 in all but their first attempt. Most recently, they battled through all the way to the semi-finals in 2010/11, bowing out to coach Jorge Jesus's old side, SC Braga.

• Leverkusen qualified by finishing second in Group K. They have reached the round of 32 on three previous occasions since the advent of the UEFA Cup group stage in 2004/05, and have yet to be denied passage to the last 16. Their most recent attempt was in 2010/11, where they made light work of FC Metalist Kharkiv before being eliminated by Villarreal CF in the round of 16.

• Leverkusen famously won the UEFA Cup in 1987/88, overturning a 3-0 first-leg deficit before beating RCD Espanyol 3-2 on penalties.

Team facts 
• Benfica midfielder Enzo Pérez celebrates his 27th birthday the day after the game.

• Leverkusen right-back Daniel Carvajal and Benfica forward Rodrigo played together in the youth team at Real Madrid CF.

• Jorge Jesus started his career as a midfielder at Sporting Clube de Portugal, and played for a number of smaller sides, hanging up his boots in 1989. He gradually worked his way up the leagues as a coach in Portugal, with successful spells at CF Os Belenenses and SC Braga – who he led to the 2008/09 UEFA Europa League round of 16 – heralding a move to Benfica. In 2009/10, he won the Portuguese title in his first season with the Eagles.

• Team manager Sami Hyypiä leads Leverkusen in collaboration with coach Sascha Lewandowski. Former Finland defender Hyypiä won the 2001 UEFA Cup and the 2005 UEFA Champions League during a ten-year spell at Liverpool FC, moving on to Leverkusen in 2009. After retiring in 2011, Hyypiä took up coaching roles with Leverkusen and Finland and stepped in – initially on a caretaker basis – after the Werkself sacked Robin Dutt last April.

• Hyypiä featured in the Liverpool side that lost to Benfica in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League round of 16, playing all 90 minutes of the 1-0 defeat in Lisbon, and watching from the bench as his side lost the return fixture 2-0 at Anfield.

Round of 16: Leverkusen/Benfica v FC Dynamo Kyiv/FC Girondins de Bordeaux
• The first legs will be played on 7 March, with the returns the following Thursday.

• Benfica have met both of their potential opponents.

• They played Dynamo in the 1991/92 European Champion Clubs' Cup group stage, losing 1-0 in Ukraine but winning 5-0 in Lisbon.

• The Eagles took on Bordeaux in the second round of the 1986/87 European Cup Winners' Cup, losing the tie 2-1 on aggregate.

• Leverkusen have met Dynamo in four previous UEFA Champions League group stage games. They have twice lost 4-2 in Kyiv, but fared better in Germany, drawing 1-1 in 1999/2000 and winning 3-0 in 2004/05.

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