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Red Bull Salzburg
Champions League | Group Stage
Dec 12, 2023 at 8pm UK
Red Bull Arena
Benfica

Salzburg
1 - 3
Benfica

Sucic (57')
Gourna-Douath (10'), Ratkov (51'), Kameri (82'), Schlager (90')
FT(HT: 0-2)
di Maria (32'), Silva (45+1'), Cabral (90+2')
Morato (45+4'), Musa (72')

Preview: Red Bull Salzburg vs. Benfica - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Champions League clash between Red Bull Salzburg and Benfica, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Requiring a three-goal win to avoid elimination from Europe, Benfica conclude their Champions League Group D campaign on Tuesday, when they visit Red Bull Salzburg.

Both teams are out of the running for a place in the last 16 of UEFA's top club competition, but Salzburg are in the driving seat as far as securing a Europa League playoff is concerned.


Match preview

Salzburg's Oscar Gloukh celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on October 24, 2023© Reuters

Third place in Group D has not yet been wrapped up by Salzburg, who finished behind Chelsea and AC Milan to secure Europa League entry in last season's Champions League, but they must merely keep Benfica at bay for 90 minutes to prolong their stay in continental competition.

The Austrian champions were 2-0 winners in Lisbon on the opening matchday, consigning 10-man Benfica to defeat via goals from Roko Simic and Oscar Gloukh, after Karim Konate missed an early penalty and Antonio Silva was sent off: although they have picked up just one more point since then, a tally of four is three more than their final-day opponents.

It would take a significant upset to overturn Salzburg's head-to-head advantage now, so their fifth successive Champions League campaign looks likely to end with a consolation place in UEFA's second-tier tournament.

Die Roten Bullen ended a three-game losing streak in their last European fixture, holding out for a goalless draw at Anoeta against Real Sociedad, who join Inter Milan at the head of the table on 11 points apiece.

Having won their first seven matches of the season, Salzburg have subsequently posted only eight wins from the next 18, but Saturday's 1-0 victory at Rapid Wien did set a new national record of 24 away games in the Bundesliga without defeat.

Gerhard Struber's young side have also kept five clean sheets in their last seven outings, conceding just three goals in the process, so they may well be confident of repeating September's success in Portugal.

Benfica's Joao Mario celebrates scoring their first goal with Casper Tengstedt on November 29, 2023© Reuters

They may have impressed en route to reaching the quarter-finals for a second successive season in 2022-23, finishing first in a group also featuring Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, but Benfica have been unable to replicate such feats this year.

Sitting bottom of Group D with a single point to their name, the Eagles only got off the mark against a much-changed Inter side last time out, sharing six goals with last season's beaten finalists after leading 3-0 at half time.

Joao Mario netted a remarkable first-half hat-trick against his former club at Estadio da Luz, but Benfica folded after the break to remain winless in seven Champions League matches.

After defeats in Milan and San Sebastian this term, the Primeira Liga side have managed only four victories from their last 17 away matches in Europe's elite club competition. As head coach Roger Schmidt prepares to meet his old employers on Tuesday, he will be particularly keen to defy such a trend.

Formerly boss of relative rookies Salzburg from June 2012 to May 2014, winning the Austrian double during his spell in charge, Schmidt now leads the continental champions of 1961 and 1962 - but such pedigree has not helped them much in Europe this season.

Benfica are, though, just one point off top spot in Portugal, following a third successive draw in all competitions on Friday evening, at home to Farense. That rather underwhelming result at least extends the Eagles' unbeaten league run to 12 matches, a streak stretching back to the opening day.

Red Bull Salzburg Champions League form:


Red Bull Salzburg form (all competitions):


Benfica Champions League form:


Benfica form (all competitions):



Team News

Red Bull Salzburg's Oscar Gloukh celebrates scoring their second goal with Amar Dedic on September 20, 2023© Reuters

Although Fernando made his long-awaited return from an adductor injury on Saturday, and Lucas Gourna-Douath was given his first start for three weeks following a thigh problem, Salzburg still have several men unavailable this week.

Former Fiorentina full-back Aleksa Terzic (adductor), Dijon Kameri (thigh), Maurits Kjaergaard (shoulder) and French defender Oumar Solet (hamstring) are all out of action for the hosts.

Having missed a penalty in September's reverse fixture, top scorer Karim Konate will be aiming to fire his side into the Europa League playoffs by adding to a tally of 10 goals, eight of which have been in the Austrian Bundesliga. Playing a supporting role behind Konate, much-admired midfielder Oscar Gloukh has notched six goals in all competitions.

Meanwhile, Rafa Silva's third strike in six matches salvaged a point for Benfica against Farense - meagre reward for 37 attempts and 67% possession - and the Portugal playmaker will play a prominent role again on Tuesday.

Alexander Bah (toe) and David Neres (knee) are still sidelined by injury, but Paris Saint-Germain loanee Juan Bernat is close to completing his comeback and could even be named in the starting XI if Roger Schmidt decides to drop current left-back Morato.

Both Antonio Silva and Tomas Araujo were in the Benfica side that beat Salzburg 6-0 in the 2022 UEFA Youth League final; while the former is suspended after being sent off again versus Inter, the latter should be named on the bench.


Red Bull Salzburg possible starting lineup:
Schlager; Dedic, Piatkowski, Pavlovic, Baidoo; Gourna-Douath; Bidstrup, Sucic; Gloukh; Simic, Konate

Benfica possible starting lineup:
Trubin; Aursnes, Victor, Otamendi, Morato; Florentino, Kocku; Di Maria, Silva, Mario; Tengstedt


SM words green background

We say: Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Benfica

Benfica have recently faltered in the Primeira Liga, and they do not tend to travel well in Europe. If Salzburg can secure an early lead, that could be enough to break the spirit of a side requiring an unlikely big win to leapfrog their hosts and snatch a Europa League place.


For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.


Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data


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Game History

How you voted: Salzburg vs Benfica

Red Bull Salzburg
53.4%
Draw
12.9%
Benfica
33.6%
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