Julian Nagelsmann is expected to return to the Bayern Munich bench when they take on SL Benfica in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

After a shock 5-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich got back to winning ways in an empathic fashion, securing a thumping 5-2 win over Union Berlin this past weekend.

On Tuesday, they will have the opportunity to secure their qualification to the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League as they welcome SL Benfica. The Bavarians are currently leading Group E with a considerable five-point gap over their midweek opponent while Barcelona are languishing in third.

The German Rekordmeister did secure a 3-0 win over Barca in the opening fixture, which means a victory on Tuesday will most likely seal their place at the top of Group E as well. It could be a valuable achievement for the Bundesliga giants, who have scored at least goals in each of their Champions League fixtures this season.

Benfica, though, are not an opposition to be taken lightly. Despite losing 4-0 in the reverse fixture, the Eagles had almost kept the Bayern attack quiet, owing to their persistence and defensive commitment. That was until a late scourge from the talented Bayern attackers that saw the Portuguese giants concede four goals in the last 20 minutes.

A win could be important Benfica this midweek if they are to finish ahead of Barcelona in the second place. Jorge Jesus’ side may also be content with a draw as well, having beaten the Catalans 3-0 in late September. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two teams ahead of this crucial fixture in the UEFA Champions League this midweek.

Team News & Tactics

Bayern Munich

Upon his return to the pitch, Julian Nagelsmann will be dealt with a selection dilemma as he looks to shuffle his pack ahead of the important game against SC Freiburg, just before the international break.

Lucas Hernandez is likely to be rested after picking up a niggle in the last game. It should allow Dayot Upamecano to feature in defence alongside Niklas Sule. The duo will look to use their imposing presence to keep things quiet at the back, with Upamecano, in particular, hoping to keep Darwin Nunez quiet.

Nunez, though, may target Bayern’s vulnerable right-back Benjamin Pavard. The same can be said for Alphonso Davies, whose forays down the flanks often leaves acres of space in the backline.

In midfield, Leon Goretzka has been cleared to play against Benfica after missing out on the Union Berlin match. The German international should replace Corentin Tolisso, thus renewing his midfield partnership with Joshua Kimmich.

There should be at least one change in the attacking department, with Kingsley Coman likely to make way for Serge Gnabry. The swap should not bring about any change of dynamics in the attack, as Gnabry and Leroy Sane are both capable of terrorising the opponents with their pace and trickery on the flanks.

Further forward, the onus will be on Robert Lewandowski to continue his goalscoring form while Thomas Muller is also a player worth keeping an eye on, having registered three assists and one goal in the Union Berlin game.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Upamecano, Sule, Davies; Kimmich, Goretzka; Gnabry, Muller, Sane; Lewandowski

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SL Benfica

SL Benfica, meanwhile, are missing some of their key players, including Andre Almeida, who had to come at half-time against Bayern Munich. Valentino Lazaro and Gil Dias are out as well, which means Jorge Jesus could opt for the full-back duo of Diogo Goncalves and Alejandro Grimaldo.

epa05178921 Sporting's head coach Jorge Jesus attends a press conference in Leverkusen, Germany, 24 February 2016. Sporting Lisbon will face Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, second leg soccer match on 25 February 2016. EPA/MARIUS BECKER

Can Jorge Jesus mastermind a win for Benfica? (Photo by EPA/Marius Becker)

At the heart of the Benfica defence, Lucas Verissimo and Nicolas Otamendi will be key outlets due to their aggression and brute force while Jan Vertonghen should offer the composure and leadership in Benfica’s three-man backline.

Julian Weigl, too, will be key in the holding midfield role. The German’s defensive work rate coupled with his aggression and positional sense often makes him vital to Benfica’s second line of press. He will be partnered by the much more creative-minded Joao Mario.

As for the attack, the lethal pace of Darwin Nunez and Rafa Silva makes Benfica a major threat on the counter. It is crowned by the hard-working striker Roman Yaremchuk, who made life quite difficult for the Bayern defenders in the reverse fixture.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Vlachodimos; Verissimo, Otamendi, Vertonghen; Goncalves, Mario, Weigl, Grimaldo; Silva, Yaremchuk, Nunez

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Key Stats

  • Robert Lewandowski is set to make his 100th appearance in the UEFA Champions League; he has 78 goals in the competition.
  • This is the 12th time that Bayern Munich will face Benfica, with the Portuguese side still without a single win.
  • No German has played in the Champions League more times than Thomas Muller (127 times), while he is one goal shy of 50 in the competition.
  • Muller is now third on Bayern’s all-time scoring list as well, after edging one clear of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (217) onto 220. Only Gerd Müller (523) and Robert Lewandowski (313) have more.
  • With 12 goals, Bayern are the current top-scoring team in the Champions League.

Player to Watch

Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller has been under the radar so far this season due to the flair and superstardom of his teammates, including Robert Lewandowski and Leroy Sane. However, the veteran forward has emerged as one of the best-performing creative players in all of Europe this term. In ten Bundesliga outings so far, Muller has already registered four goals and nine assists, three of which came in the win over Union Berlin.

The German international has performed well in the Champions League as well, securing a vital goal against Barcelona while grabbing two assists in the win over Dynamo Kyiv. His positioning sense and attacking work rate could be key if Bayern are to break apart the Benfica defence once again this midweek.

Prediction

Bayern Munich 3-0 SL Benfica

It is hard to imagine anything other than a Bayern Munich win, given the form that they are in at the moment. Their shocking defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach aside, the Bavarians have been almost faultless this season, especially in the UEFA Champions League.

Nearly all of their star players are in top form right now, and with Julian Nagelsmann set to return to the touchline, Benfica could be in for yet another battering. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-0 win for Bayern Munich.

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