Champions League play-off second-leg predictions: Benfica can complete job in style
The race for the final spots in this year's Champions League group stage concludes this week with the second legs of the six play-off ties.
The first three take place on Tuesday night when Benfica host Dynamo Kyiv, Red Star Belgrade take on Maccabi Haifa and Viktoria Plzen welcome FK Qarabag.
Benfica vs Dynamo Kyiv (Tuesday, 8pm)
Benfica have all but nailed down their place in the group stage courtesy of their 2-0 win in the first leg in neutral Poland.
Dynamo Kyiv should be commended for getting this far as their only competitive games since Christmas were their recent qualifiers against Fenerbahce and Sturm Graz, both won narrowly.
Benfica are flying with five straight wins to start their 2022-23 season.
Roger Schmidt's men kicked off their campaign with home-and-away successes over Midtjylland in the previous round and they have also won their two opening Primeira Liga contests.
This is the seventh European showdown between the two clubs, Benfica winning five of the last six, three of them by 2-0 scorelines.
Benfica have beaten Dynamo Kyiv without conceding a goal in five of their previous six meetings, and having done the hard work in Poland they ought to be able to cruise through with the minimum of fuss in Lisbon.
The much sought-after 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos has hit the ground running with five goals in five games and could well find the net again.
Red Star Belgrade vs Maccabi Haifa (Tuesday, 8pm)
Red Star Belgrade were 2-1 up at half-time in Haifa last week but second-half goals from Frantzdy Pierot and Tjarron Chery gave Maccabi a 3-2 win and a slight edge heading to Belgrade.
Red Star have stormed to the top of the Serbian top flight amidst a goal spree.
They have played five league matches so far, won the lot and banged in 21 goals, conceding just one.
In the Champions League they demolished Pyunik 7-0 on aggregate before finally meeting their match last Wednesday in Israel.
Maccabi's league season is yet to start. They beat Olympiakos and Apollon Limassol in their previous Champions League ties, though losing the second leg in Limassol might be a cause for concern.
Every Red Star match this season seems to contain lot of goals and it would be a major surprise if this did not as well with them chasing the game.
That one-goal edge is a healthy weapon, however, and Maccabi have enough nous throughout their ranks to be able to qualify for the group stage.
Viktoria Plzen vs FK Qarabag (Tuesday, 8pm)
There was nothing between these sides in Baku where Plzen keeper Jindrich Stanek was the hero with seven saves in a 0-0 draw.
Czech side Plzen are unbeaten in eight games played this season, winning all three at home, twice in the Champions League against HJK and Sheriff Tiraspol.
This is Qarabag's fourth away tie in the competition — they lost 1-0 at Lech Poznan, drew 2-2 in Zurich and then won 3-1 at Ferencvaros in the previous round.
It was tight in Baku where Qarabag were unlucky and while that gives Plzen an edge, this tie looks a long way from being over. Another hard-fought stalemate would surprise no one.