Borussia Dortmund will try to overcome a 1-0 deficit at the Westfalenstadion against Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday night. We’ve caught up with David Pritchett from Planet Benfica ahead of the game.
Which Dortmund players impressed you most in the first leg?
David Pritchett: Julian Weigl was the standout performer for me. He was strong in the tackle and barely missed a pass. He looks very mature for a 21-year old. Everything came through him, and Benfica simply cannot afford to give him the same amount of space in the second leg. Ousmane Dembélé was also very lively in the first 45 minutes, although he faded in the second half. I can see why he is one of the hottest prospects in Europe. Christian Pulisic also looked bright when he came on.
Benfica have won their last seven games on the run, and remain top of the Liga NOS. Does their current form match their results?
DP: Not really. It seems a strange thing to say after seven consecutive victories, but Benfica have been far from their best recently. They have been failing to dominate midfield, lacking in intensity, and struggling to carve out chances. What they have been is ruthlessly efficient. The team has only conceded two goals during their winning streak, keeping five clean sheets in the process. At the other end of the pitch, Kostas Mitroglou has taken almost every opportunity that has come his way, netting nine times in February alone. He has scored a staggering 18 goals in his last 17 appearances.
Were any players rested against Feirense on Saturday?
DP: With Porto breathing down their necks in the Portuguese title race, Benfica played a virtually full strength team at Feirense. Right-back Nélson Semedo was absent through suspension, so he will be full of energy on Wednesday night. Talismanic forward Jonas played 16 minutes off the bench as he made his latest comeback from a niggling neck injury.
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Does the team have any injuries or suspensions ahead of the second leg?
DP: Nobody is suspended, although three central midfielders are one booking away from a ban. Left-back Álex Grimaldo is still recovering from abdominal surgery and was removed from Benfica’s Champions League squad prior to the first leg. The really bad news for Benfica is that Ljubomir Fejsa has failed to recover from a sprained ankle, and will take no part in Wednesday’s fixture. Fejsa is the rock that shields the Benfica defence with his superb positional play, intelligent reading of the game, and perfectly-timed tackling. Jonas has travelled with the squad, although it is unclear whether he is fit enough to start.
Will Benfica’s tactical approach differ at all from the first leg?
DP: I expect them to soak up the pressure and attempt to hit Dortmund on the counter-attack. Benfica have plenty of pace on the flanks, so this approach would definitely play to their strengths. Their formation is a little harder to predict, however. Most coaches would look to reinforce the midfield for a game like this, but Rui Vitória is a firm believer in his preferred 4-4-2 formation. The only time he has deviated from that strategy this season was away to Napoli during the group stage when he opted for a 4-2-3-1. That match ended in a 4-2 defeat. Many fans would like Vitória to pack the midfield against Dortmund, especially after the Eagles were so comprehensively outplayed in the first leg. But Benfica used a four-man midfield at the Allianz Arena last season, so nothing is certain.
Predicted lineup for Wednesday?
Ederson; Eliseu, Lindelöf, Luisão, Nélson Semedo; Živković, Samaris, Pizzi, Salvio; Jonas, Mitroglou