Jeff Buckeridge (@JefferidgeBuck) previews Benfica v PAOK and provides us with his best bets for Tuesday’s Champions League qualifier by analysing team news, potential line-ups, head-to-head, key stats and facts and more.

Benfica v PAOK Betting Preview, Odds & Tips

  • Date: 21/8/18
  • Time: 8pm
  • Venue: Estadio De Luz, Lisbon
  • Channel: BT Sports

Benfica will welcome PAOK FC to Lisbon on Tuesday in a Champions League Play-Off 1st Leg tie, with a place in the group stages, and all the riches that come with it, at stake. The Portuguese runners-up are looking to make amends for their terrible European campaign last season when they lost every game in their group, featuring Manchester United. Under manager Rui Vitoria’s guidance, Benfica have had a good start to the season, overcoming Turkish outfit Fenerbahçe and opening their domestic season with two wins out of two. Los Aguias (The Eagles) have made modest transfer acquisitions so far. PAOK fans will be familiar with new signing Odysseas Vlachodimos, a goalkeeper bought from Panathiakos, who has started well for Benfica. Ex-Newcastle striker, Facundo Ferreyra, scored his first goal for the club in their most recent game against Boavista at the weekend and will be hoping to score his first Champions League for his new club and guide them towards the group stages.

But first they will need to overcome the challenge of PAOK who also finished second in their respective domestic league. It was a bizarre season for the Greek side who made international headlines after the president of the team, Ivan Savvidis, entered the pitch with a gun after a late PAOK goal was overturned. PAOK were later punished with a reduction of three points. It was a major blow to PAOK's title hopes but the club still managed to end their season on a high note by winning their second consecutive Greek Cup. Attention now turns to this season though, and PAOK are looking to reach the group stage for the first time. Their domestic season doesn’t start until September, but their season was well and truly kicked off after a thumping 5-1 aggregate win over Basel and a strong showing against Spartak Moscow. Aleksander Prijovic will lead the line for PAOK, having scored three goals in their Champions League campaign so far.

Team News

Benfica will be without Jonas after a back injury and Krovinovic and Ebuehi due to cruciate ligament ruptures. New signing, Nicolas Castillo could return after missing the last tie with a calf strain.

PAOK’s only player missing is left-back Dorian Leveque who hasn’t featured in almost a season. The Greek side aren’t expected to make many changes to the team that beat Basel 3-0 in Switzerland.

Benfica Potential Starting XI – Vlachodimos; Almelda, Jardel, Dias, Grimaldo; Fejsa, Fernandes, Pizzi; Salvio, Castillo, Ferreyra

PAOK Potential Starting XI – Paschalakis; Leo Matos, Varela, Kacheridi, Crespo; Canas, Mauricio; Limnios, Pelkas, El Kaddouri; Prijovic

Head To Head

This is the third time the sides have been drawn together, the previous two were in the Europa League. In 1999, a Benfica side featuring Robert Enke overcame PAOK on penalties. In 2014, Benfica comfortably won 4-0 on aggregate in the second knockout round.

Key Stats & Facts

  • This is only Benfica's second UEFA Champions League play-off. They won the first 5-3 against Twente in 2011
  • Benfica are looking to qualify for the Champions League group stage for the ninth season in a row.
  • PAOK have only lost two of 11 away games in continental competition.
  • PAOK's only previous Champions League play-off was a 4-3 aggregate loss against Schalke in 2013.

The Verdict

Benfica will be confident, given their European prowess, but PAOK are no pushovers and their demolition of Basel in their first game should sound alarm bells in Lisbon. The bookies point to a home win but there is value in a draw and that’s what I’m going for at 3/1. Gedson Fernandes has started the season well and could be a shout to score anytime. Finally, a European game with a lot at stake usually means a defensive error, a penalty to be awarded looks an interesting bet at 21/10.

Recommended Bets

  • Draw – 3/1
  • Penalty to be taken – 21/10