The only remaining British team left, Chelsea, visits Portugal to take on Benfica in the first leg of this Champions League quarter-final tie.
Considering the guaranteed crazy atmosphere we’re bound to witness in Lisbon, it’s no shock to see Benfica as the small favorites for Tuesday’s first leg.
The Portuguese side are at +142 at a few sportsbooks, while Roberto Di Matteo’s Blues can be found at +227 on the soccer odds board to take home the spoils before heading back to Stamford Bridge.
Benfica is currently in a heated battle with FC Porto and Sporting Braga for the Portuguese Liga crown. Only two points separate first from third, but right now it’s Porto that’s holding the lead at the top, with Benfica in second and Braga in third.
Benfica the first-leg favorites
In Europe, the Eagles advanced from their group alongside FC Basel; a huge surprise givenManchester United was in that same group.
Come knockout stages time, Benfica then overturned a 3-2 deficit from the first leg, winning 2-0 in the follow-up at home to send Zenit St Petersburg packing. The Eagles dominated the match from the outset and got goals from Maxi Pereira and Nelson Oliveira.
Chelsea’s rollercoaster of a season has been well-documented.
Their latest two sub-par results have come to two of the Premier League’s best. I’m not reading too much into a heart-breaking away defeat to Manchester City and a rather dull 0-0 draw withTottenham. The Blues had won four straight prior to that, including that wonderful 4-1 triumph over Napoli at Stamford Bridge.
In what was one of the most memorable European comebacks in recent memory, Chelsea got goals out of Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and then the match-winner from Branislav Ivanovic in extra-time.
The Blues will be ecstatic to have Terry back after he sat out in the loss to City. He played very well in his return against the Spurs and will be counted on for another rock-solid performance against the Eagles.
No walk in the park for Chelsea
There’s one man who’s been completely tearing it up for Benfica this season and it’s Oscar Cardozo.
Cardozo, a Paraguayan international, has 22 total goals in 24 appearances in all competitions this season, including four goals in five Champions League matches so far. During the months of December and January he scored at least once in every match, quite the impressive feat.
With Cardozo leading the way, Benfica has gone unbeaten in its past 10 home games in Europe. That doesn’t bode well for a Blues squad that’s failed to win once away from London so far this season in European play.
Still, that doesn’t mean Chelsea won’t get something out of this match.
The Blues look rejuvenated under Di Matteo and I think they deserved at least a point against Manchester City last week. Benfica is a great team, but Chelsea has that necessary European experience to get a solid result heading into the deciding tie next week. They’ve dealt with intimidating environments plenty of times before.
As such I feel a draw, priced in the +200 to +228 region at the sportsbooks, represents the bestsoccer betting value for us.
FREE Pick: Benfica 1 Chelsea 1