Benfica seeking Bayern upset without Jonas

LISBON • Benfica boss Rui Vitoria faces another test of his powers of improvisation as he tries to patch up a team without top scorer Jonas against Bayern Munich tonight.

The Portuguese champions were beaten 0-1 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, a narrow enough margin to give them a chance of producing a major upset at the Stadium of Light.

But with Brazilian marksman Jonas suspended, the likelihood of beating Bayern for the first time after seven failed attempts looks more remote.

The 31-year-old has scored 30 goals in only 29 Portuguese league appearances this season and two in his nine Champions League outings, including a stoppage-time winner at home to Zenit St Petersburg in the round of 16.

But Vitoria, in his first season at Benfica, has already proved he can produce a winning team from a squad which lacks the strength-in-depth of elite European teams like Bayern.

Mexican forward Raul Jimenez, who usually starts on the bench, might get a chance to finally partner Kostas Mitroglou today, although Vitoria could move midfielder Nicolas Gaitan into attack and reshuffle his midfield.

"We're not going to sit here and cry over something we cannot control," Vitoria said. "This is just an opportunity for someone else and whoever plays will certainly do a great job. We are going to put out a competitive team to face them on equal terms, hand for hand, centimetre by centimetre."

He responded to an injury crisis in Benfica's defence by bringing in the previously untried Victor Lindelof. The 21-year-old Swede responded by helping the Portuguese league leaders win 20 of their last 22 games.

Vitoria gave midfielder Renato Sanches his professional debut in October with media reports saying that the 18-year-old now has a €35 million (S$53.75 million) price tag and is attracting interest from some of Europe's top clubs.

Bayern, who have reached the semi-finals for the last four seasons, remain the clear favourites.

Pep Guardiola's side have been typically dominant this season with a seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga and only three defeats all season.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'Benfica seeking Bayern upset without Jonas'. Print Edition | Subscribe