Meanwhile, visitors Benfica are missing captain Luisao and fellow defender Maxi Pereira through suspension, while midfielder Carlos Martins it out through injury.
The absence of Luisao was confirmed by FIFA after the governing body had ruled that the Brazilian’s two-month ban for pushing a referee in a pre-season friendly applies to all competitions worldwide – both domestic, european and international. While Pereira misses the game due to him picking up a red card during last season’s quarter final clash with Chelsea.
News of their exclusion, is welcome news to Celtic and manager Neil Lennon ahead of tonight’s clash.
“He is a very important player to Benfica. He is their captain and a very experienced Brazilian international with a lot of class and great leadership qualities. If he was to miss the game, that would be a huge bonus for us.”
Benfica also saw two of their top stars sold during the transfer window, Javi Garcia being sold to Manchester City and Axel Witsel transferred to Zenit St.Petersburg.
However, Benfica will call on the services of striker Oscar Cardozo, Rodrigo, Lima and wingers Gaitan and Salvio to provide the attacking threat on a Celtic back line that has been less than impressive domestically this season – and failed to be really tested in the qualifying games agains HJK Helsinki and Helsingborgs.
On the threat still posed by Benfica, Lennon added: “What they’ve lost is Garcia and Witsel, who were two big players for them. But in Cordozo, who is an excellent player and has been for some while, Rodrigo and they’ve brought in Lima from Braga, who we know from our experiences a couple of years ago, they’ve got an excellent forward line. And they have experience of playing at this level, which we don’t.”
Celtic will welcome back captain Scott Brown, who is the only survivor from the last time Celtic played Benfica in 2007, beating them 1-0 thanks to a goal from Aiden McGeady.
New signings Miku and Lassad Nouioui had been included in the squad, after making their debuts in the 2-1 defeat to St.Johnstone on Saturday. Nigerian defender Efe Ambrose is also included in the squad, but is not expected to take part in the game as he has yet to make an appearance for Celtic since signing from Israeli side Ashdod.
Celtic’s past form at home against the Portuguese side is good. Benfica have failed to score a single goal at Celtic Park on three previous occasions, however Celtic have also failed to do likewise over in Lisbon. Celtic’s home form in the champions league is particularly impressive with only two defeats in 18 homes matches in Europe’s top club competition.
Statistics and past form count for little when the teams take to the field, with Celtic deemed as the underdogs against a quality side in Benfica. However, Celtic will hope that their domestic form does not transcend into europe and that the partisan crowd at Celtic Park will have a negative effect on the visitors.
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Match Prediction: If I went with my heart I could see Celtic beating Benfica 2-1, but I can also see this game ending a draw. But I will stick to a 2-1 victory for Celtic.
For an indepth pre-match analysis of the game check out the excellent website: Tictactic
Possible Celtic XI: Forster, Matthews, Wilson, Rogne, Izaguirre, Forrest, Brown, Wanyama, Mulgrew, Commons, Hooper.
Possible Benfica XI: Moraes, Jardel, Vitor, Garay, Melgarejo, Salvio, Martins, Aimar, Nolito, Cardozo, Rodrigo.
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli
Current Form (Competitive matches): Celtic: LDWWW Benfica: WWD