SL Benfica host Ajax Amsterdam in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday. Both sides aim to make a strong start in the opening leg ahead of the return clash at Johan Cruyff Arena next month. The Dutch giants have won all their UCL games so far this season. Only Bayern Munich have scored more goals than the Dutch club in this season’s competition heading into the knockout stages. The Portuguese powerhouse needed a win over Dynamo Kyiv to advance after Barcelona were knocked out. 

The Portuguese giants welcome the Dutch champions to the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday, looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016 – and you can get the best odds on them qualifying by looking at Sports betting Canada this week.

“We are going to face an opponent with a lot of quality,” said Verissimo, who took over at Benfica until the end of the season when Jorge Jesus was sacked in December. 

“Ajax are currently one of the best teams in Europe. They have strengths, but also weaknesses that we’ll want to exploit. We know it will be difficult, but we are motivated. We have to keep possession, and also defend without the ball. Honestly, I think it’s 50/50.”

At his press conference, Ajax coach ten Hag responded that Benfica were also dangerous.

“We want a good result, knowing who is favourite does not matter. We have analysed Benfica. They take advantage of mistakes,” he said. “Counter-attack is one of their strong points.”

He also praised the Benfica defence built around two 34-year-olds: Nicolas Otamendi and Ajax old boy Jan Vertonghen.

“The strength of Benfica is their experience, especially in the centre of defence,” said ten Haag. “We will have to be very good to create opportunities because they have experienced players like Otamendi and Vertonghen.”

Team News:

Benfica: Benefica needs to be careful with their players as many are on the verge of a suspension. Julian Weigl, Nicolas Otamendi, Joao Mario, Rafa Silva and Alex Grimaldo will miss the second leg should they pick up a booking.

Due to injuries, Haris Seferovic, Rodrigo Pinho, and Lucas Verissimo will miss the match. 

Ajax: Jurrien Timber’s place in the starting XI is in doubt after hitting his calf on the post last week in the league match. Brian Brobbey and Maarten Stekelenburg are also out, and there are chances that Andre Onana getting a start after the lengthy suspension. But Ten Haag might still go with the 37-year-old Pasveer. 

Possible lineups:

Benfica’s possible starting lineup:

Vlachodimos; Lazaro, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Silva, Taarabt, Weigl, Everton; Yaremchuk, Nunez

Ajax’s possible starting lineup:

Pasveer; Mazraoui, Schuurs, Martinez, Blind; Alvarez, Klaassen; Antony, Berghuis, Tadic; Haller

Match Details:

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 23

Time: 3 p.m. ET

Venue: Estadio da Luz – Lisbon, Portugal