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Benfica face Spanish riddle

Benfica face Spanish riddle
FC Barcelona will visit Portugal to take on Benfica in the second round of Champions League group football onTuesday.

Barca had to struggle to beat Spartak Moscow in the first group match, coming back from 1-2 down before two goals from Lionel Messi took them to a 3-2 win at Camp Nou Stadium a fortnight ago.

Barca coach Tito Vilanova’s side have a 100 percent record this season in La Liga. The moral is high after another fightback saw them win 3-2 away against Sevilla during the weekend after trailing 0-2 in the game. This means they have a comfortable cushion at the top of the Spanish domestic competition.

Barcelona entertain arch-rivals Real Madrid next Sunday and that game could have an influence on the side Vilanova puts on to the pitch at the Stadium of Light Tuesday.

Vilanova will want to give minutes to influential midfielder Andres Iniesta, who has been out of action with a thigh injury for the past three weeks, but at the same time he won’t want to force the creative mastermind.

Meanwhile, Vilanova may also be keen to limit the time Xavi Hernandez spends on the pitch ahead of next Sunday and that will probably mean Cesc Fabregas getting a chance in the starting eleven, especially as Thiago Alcantara misses out with a knee problem. It was confirmed Sunday that Thiago has a ligament problem and will be out of action for the next two months.

The good news for Barca is that captain Carles Puyol has been included in the squad after making a rapid recovery from a strained knee ligament. Puyol was expected to be sidelined for around six weeks but is back after less than a month.

Vilanova will want to give Puyol minutes ahead of Sunday’s La Liga clash at home against Real Madrid, although he aims to ensure that the decisive game doesn’t distract from the task in Lisbon.

‘The Champions League game is more complicated than the match we have against Madrid. We have to go to Lisbon and win with all we have. Last season Benfica were really good. They beat Chelsea (in the quarterfinals) and Chelsea finished champions,’ he added.

Meanwhile, Valencia entertain Lille in the Champions League play-off Tuesday night, knowing a win is vital for their hopes of making it out of the group stage of the competition.

Valencia manager Mauricio Pellegrini’s side will take heart from an improved performance Saturday which saw them secure a convincing 2-0 win at home against Zaragoza in the La League.

That win helped clear doubts over a poor start to Pellegrini’s time as coach, although it should be pointed out that Valencia had played away against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The 1-2 defeat in Munich means Valencia have yet to open their account in Europe and with home matches against Lille and Bate Borisov to come, Valencia now have the chance to get points on the board in Europe.

Manchester United will be without Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young who are nursing injuries.

Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will miss the flight to Romania as Ferguson keeps them rested. Youngsters Michael Keane, Scott Wooton see themselves in the squad.

The Red Devils will want to put their shock defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford on Saturday behind and make a good impression.     

Chelsea travel to Denmark to face FC Nordsjaelland next for their second game in defence of their Champions League crown, after their opening Group E fixture saw them draw 2-2 with Italian giants Juventus at Stamford Bridge.
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