Portuguese side Benfica will need to score at least one goal against PAOK when they travel to Greece on Wednesday if it wants to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League.
PAOK exceeded expectations last week when they managed a 1-1 draw in Lisbon. Now, the Greek side can advance to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time if they can hold a scoreless draw at home, which would allow them to go through on away goals.
Benfica Champions League Streak in Jeopardy
PAOK was naturally thrilled with the result, with recent addition Chuba Akpom – who transferred in from Arsenal – praising his new team after making his debut in the draw.
“Good performance away from home,” the 22-year-old striker wrote on Twitter after the match. “One last push for qualification.”
Benfica is still favored to go through: the two time European champions are a Champions League staple, having made the group stage in every season since 2005-2006. But the odds are certainly tightening, as it’s not hard to imagine PAOK being able to hold out on home turf. Paddy Power has Benfica as a 4/6 pick to advance, while the Greek club is listed at 11/10.
Salzberg, Belgrade Each Look to Make History
Red Bull Salzburg also have a little work to do as they head into the second leg of their playoff against Serbian side Red Star Belgrade. The two sides played to a scoreless draw in Serbia last week, meaning Salzburg will need to find the net in order to go through, unless they want to risk a penalty shootout. Meanwhile, Belgrade can advance with a win or with a draw in which they score at least one goal.
Both teams are looking to make some history: Salzburg last appeared in the Champions League group stage in the 1994-95 season, while Belgrade – the 1991 European Cup winner – have never qualified under the current format.
Salzburg is coming off a year in which it reached the Europa League semifinals, and is a firm favorite to advance through to the group stage. The Austrian champion is listed at 2/5 to go through, while Belgrade is a 15/2 pick to pull off the upset at make their first group stage appearance.
Also on Wednesday, PSV Eindhoven (1/80 to advance) will host BATE Borisov (12/1). PSV picked up a 3-2 victory in Belarus last week, and are heavy favorites to win again at home and advance through to the Champions League group stage for the third straight year.
Wednesday’s winners will join three sides that have already qualified through the playoff round. On Tuesday, four-time European champion Ajax played a 0-0 draw away at Dynamo Kyiv, which was enough for the Dutch side to hold their 3-1 aggregate advantage and go through.
Also advancing were AEK Athens, which defeated Hungarian side Vidi 3-2 on aggregate, and Swiss team Young Boys, which will make its first ever Champions League appearance after a 3-2 aggregate victory over Dinamo Zagreb.