Club Brugge vs Benfica predictions: Frustration awaits for Parker's men
Club Brugge have upset the odds to make it into the last 16 of the Champions League but a talented Benfica side could shut them down in a cagey first leg on Wednesday.
The Lisbon side qualified from Group H ahead of Paris Saint-Germain due to having scored more away goals and are aiming to make it to the quarter-finals of this competition for the second straight season.
Wednesday's hosts beat Bayer Leverkusen, Porto and Atletico Madrid to reach the last 16 but have stagnated since then, and even a change of manager has not changed their fortunes.
Tajon Buchanan (knock), Andreas Skov Olsen (hip) and Ferran Jutgla (back) are doubtful for home boss Scott Parker, who replaced Carl Hoefkens in December.
Noa Lang and former Benfica striker Roman Yaremchuk are expected to start in attack, with Antonio Nusa a candidate to replace Buchanan should the Canadian not recover in time.
Benfica coach Roger Schmidt has a full squad to select from, including Goncalo Ramos, who is back after an "upper leg" injury.
Ramos' return may see Goncalo Guedes drop out, while Chiquinho should continue in midfield alongside Florentino Luis.
This is the first time Bruges have made it out of the pool stages of the Champions League but they have lost momentum since their pre-Christmas heroics.
Parker has won just one of his seven games in charge, with five of his matches at the helm ending in draws and contributing to them sitting fourth in the First Division A.
In contrast, Benfica had won four in a row before losing out on penalties to Braga last Thursday in the Taca de Portugal, after having had a man sent off, and they sit five points clear at the top of the Primeira Liga.
As Aguias also took seven of a possible nine points from their three away matches in the groups at an aggregate of 9-3 in their favour.
Benfica have a form player in Joao Mario, who has scored five times in his last three outings to take his season's total to 17 goals for club and country.
His tally includes strikes in all three of his side's away matches in Group H.
It is tough to see anything but Benfica progressing over the two legs and reaching the quarter-finals for the second straight season.
They are unbeaten at home in all competitions so a draw or better on the road would leave As Aguias almost certain to go through and they should emerge from their trip to Belgium with some sort of advantage.
Club Brugge have done incredibly well to reach this far but their faltering domestic form hints at another night of frustration for the Blauw-Zwart.
Draws have been the name of the game for the Belgian champions and while sure to push Schmidt's side, they look unlikely to get the maximum result in front of their fans at the Jan Breydelstadion.