Benfica vs. Fenerbahce: Previewing Biggest Storylines of Europa League Clash

Justin Onslow@@JustinOnslowNFLContributor IIMay 2, 2013

Fenerbahce didn’t have long to reflect on their first-leg victory against Benfica last week. With a trip to Estadio da Luz on the horizon—to a venue at which Benfica has lost just once this season—the Turkish side will have some work to do in preparation for what should be an exciting second-leg clash.

In their previous contest, Fenerbahce missed out on some opportunities to further sway the tide and make a Europa League finals appearance nearly out of sight for the Portuguese side, though little negative can be said of a 1-0 victory against a tough opponent.

Still, Fenerbahce’s inability to tack on extra scoring will make traveling to Estadio da Luz a tremendously challenging task this time around.

The winner of the May 2 second-leg bout will go on to a Europa League finals matchup with either Chelsea or Basel on May 15. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines of this match to determine which club will have a date with destiny and a chance at the Europa League title.

 

Home Sweet Home

Estadio da Luz isn’t a friendly venue for opposing squads—and that’s putting it mildly. With just one loss at home this year (to Barcelona), Benfica have shown a propensity for playing their best football on their home turf.

In addition, the Portuguese side have not lost a match at home in their last 14 Europa League matches. Confidence will be running high when they take the pitch on May 2.

Fenerbahce aren’t exactly pushovers on the road, however.

One of the strongest squads away from home (with four wins) in the league, Fenerbahce won’t be intimidated by the prospect of traveling to Estadio da Luz, especially with the confidence of a victory against their foes in the first leg.

The environment of an away contest in big matches such as this are always much more foreboding, though. Expect Fenerbahce to struggle to get much momentum in the early going.

 

The Best Defense Is a Strong Offense

While Benfica managed to hold their counterpart to just one scoring strike last week, the Portuguese side haven’t played with much defensive prowess in the Europa League this season. In order to take advantage of playing on their home pitch in a must-win match, they have to turn the screws on Fenerbahce early and often.

A strong offense is the best plan of attack for keeping opponents off-balance and out of sorts. Jorge Jesus will likely game-plan for a lot of early heat at Fenerbahce’s end, taking the pressure off its back end in shutting down the Yellow Canaries’ attack.

The Eagles won’t have striker Ola John to help in the effort, though. The left wing was given a yellow card suspension for the contest, and Oscar Cardoza will likely be expected to pick up the slack.

Fenerbahce didn’t seem at full strength in their 1-0 win last week, however. While Benfica gets the edge in the offensive department in this contest, expect the Yellow Canaries to look much stronger on the attack with a week to prepare for the rematch.

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