Champions League play-off first-leg predictions: Benfica to outshine Dynamo

Tom Hill
Spotlight
Roger Schmidt's Benfica have been in fantastic form this season
Roger Schmidt's Benfica have been in fantastic form this season

Qualifying for this season's Champions League has now reached the play-off round and there are three matches taking place on Wednesday evening.

Only 180 minutes of action separates the teams in question from a place in the iconic group stages and all three games bring the promise of huge entertainment.

Dynamo Kyiv vs Benfica (Wednesday, 8pm)

Benfica will hope to catch Dynamo Kyiv cold when the two sides meet on Wednesday at the Wladyslaw Krol Municipal Stadium.

Kyiv's domestic campaign has been in turmoil due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and even though Benfica's season is only just beginning, they will feel they can overcome their hosts.

The stats

Kyiv have only played four competitive fixtures since December but Mircea Lucescu's outfit have managed to fight their way past Fenerbahce and Sturm Graz in qualifying — scoring five goals across the two European encounters.

However, Benfica are in the better form heading into the contest and they have won all four matches this season — scoring an impressive 12 goals in process.

Prediction

Kyiv will not have the luxury of playing on home soil and without their passionate home support, they should come unstuck.

Benfica's recent form has been imposing and an away win to nil could be the way to go, as they look to put one foot in the group stages under Roger Schmidt.

FK Qarabag vs Viktoria Plzen (Wednesday, 5.45pm)

FK Qarabag and Viktoria Plzen are firing on all cylinders after enjoying unbeaten starts to their respective domestic campaigns.

The Horsemen lost their opening game in qualifying 1-0 to Lech Poznan, but they rallied to win 5-2 on aggregate and they have since dispatched Zurich and Ferencvaros to reach this stage.

As for Plzen, they thumped HJK 7-1 on aggregate before seeing off Sheriff 4-2 across two legs to get within touching distance of the main draw.

The stats

Since losing 1-0 in Poland, FK Qarabag have enjoyed a seven-match unbeaten run across all competitions and they are aiming for a fourth straight win on Wednesday evening.

Gurban Gurbanov's side have scored 19 times during this period, although they have only kept one clean sheet and the defensive issues will need to be resolved quickly.

Gurban Gurbanov's side are aiming to reach the main draw for the first time since 2017-18
Gurban Gurbanov's side are aiming to reach the main draw for the first time since 2017-18

While the signs are favourable for the Azerbaijani side, Viktoria Plzen are unbeaten this season in seven contests and they boast an incredible away record that has not seen them defeated on their travels since October 2021.

Prediction

FK Qarabag will be determined to make the most of home advantage on Wednesday and give their fans something to smile about. 

Their last defeat at the Azersun Arena came in February, so they should set the tempo, but the goals market could prove to be the better option to look at.

Both teams to score has landed in all but one of The Horsemen's last seven matches, while it is exactly the same scenario for Viktoria Plzen.

Maccabi Haifa vs Red Star Belgrade (Wednesday, 8pm)

Maccabi Haifa welcome Red Star Belgrade to the Sammy Ofer Stadium on Wednesday in a match that could steal the headlines this week.

While The Greens have yet to play a game in the Israeli Premier League, Red Star have won all five of their matches in the Super Liga to sit top of the standings.

The stats

Maccabi Haifa have so far eliminated Olympiacos and Apollon Limassol on their way to the play-off round of the competition, but it has not been easy going in Europe and they will need to be at their best on Wednesday.

Barak Bakhar's side were beaten 2-0 by Apollon last time out, as they went through 4-2 on aggregate, while they also lost the Israeli Super Cup on penalties to Hapoel Be'er Sheva last month.

Red Star have been in red-hot form so far this season, winning seven matches on the spin and conceding just one goal.

Prediction

Maccabi Haifa last failed to score at home in November, so they should be able to find the back of the net in midweek, but picking up a victory could be hard work.

Instead, over 3.5 goals in the match appeals, especially when you consider Red Star have scored 28 goals already this season.

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