Robert Lewandowski, Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller and a host of other world-class players should ensure that Bayern Munich come out on top against Benfica in the UEFA Champions League. bundesliga.com lays it all out in five reasons…
1) Unstoppable Lewandowski
Nobody in any first division across the world has scored as many league goals in 2021 as Lewandowski with 33. Add in European games and he’s up to 41. The Golden Shoe he picked up for his record-setting 41 Bundesliga goals last season was just reward to go with the Best FIFA Men’s Player award he’d received prior.
A 15-game scoring run in the Bundesliga briefly came to an end before Lewandowski's brace in victory over Leverkusen, and the 33-year-old has netted in each of his last seven UEFA Champions League outings, grabbing a total of 10 goals. That includes five in three this season, with doubles against Barcelona and Dynamo Kyiv and a goal in the 4-0 triumph over Benfica on Matchday 3.
Undoubtedly one of the favourites for the Ballon d’Or after missing out last season due to its cancellation, Lewandowski has proven in recent years that he’s the best goalscorer in the world and almost impossible to stop. Of the 54 club matches he’s played since the start of 2020/21, he’s been on the scoresheet in 41.
Watch: All 41 of Lewandowksi’s Bundesliga goals in 2020/21
Benfica haven’t been spared Lewandowski’s wrath down the years, with the Polish striker boasting a haul of four goals four three starts against the Portuguese club, including the most recent meeting in mid-October.
2) You can’t stop them all
Even if you do manage to keep Lewandowski quiet in front of goal, opposition defences can’t afford to do that at the expense of neglecting other players in this Bayern team. Gnabry has seven goals in all competitions this season, Sane has six, while Müller and Jamal Musiala both have four. Meanwhile, even central midfielder Joshua Kimmich has three.
Sane in particular has been a standout performer with a direct hand in 14 goals in 14 appearances. The 25-year-old looks reborn under Julian Nagelsmann and now playing out on the left more. Doubling up with Alphonso Davies racing up and down that flank, there’s some serious skill and speed to contend with.
Watch: How Sane has upped his game this season
Add to that the midfield presence of Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, as well as the spell that Manuel Neuer appears to cast on approaching attackers in goal, and Benfica will need far more than the miraculous appearance of their eagle Vitoria to whisk them away from the Mount Doom that is the Bundesliga champions.
3) Beware the Bayern backlash
Bayern lost 5-0 to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the DFB Cup on Wednesday, their European-wide record-setting run of scoring in 85 consecutive competitive games coming to an abrupt ending - but that is far from good news for Benfica.
Now very much a wounded animal backed into a corner, Nagelsmann's charges will come into this game with a point to prove as they look to make amends and start a new scoring streak.
For example, the team's only other defeat this season - a 2-1 reverse at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 7 - was followed by a comprehensive 5-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen and then back-to-back 4-0 victories (including the triumph in Lisbon).
Indeed, the last time Bayern lost by a similarly high margin without scoring was the 4-0 Champions League semi-final second leg defeat against Real Madrid in April 2014. Hamburg were the team that felt the full force of Bayern's frustration after that, losing 4-1 in the Reds' next outing. Benfica have been warned...
Watch: How Nagelsmann has changed Bayern’s game
4) Home strength
The Allianz Arena is not an easy place to pick up points as a visiting team. Portuguese clubs have found this out the hard way in recent years: Bayern's record on their own patch reads W11 D2 against sides from the Iberian nation. They have won each of the last five, scoring 20 goals in the process and conceding just three.
Not only that, but Bayern have won nine of their last 10 Champions League matches in Munich, while this is the third successive season, and ninth overall, in which the Reds have won their first three games in the competition. On the last five occasions they have also been victorious on Matchday 4.
With fans now back in attendance and the team able to book their place in the next round, the omens are stacked in Bayern's favour going into this one.
5) Unbeaten against Benfica
Bayern and Benfica rank among the best football clubs in the world for membership and are both the most successful teams in their respective countries, but there’s only ever been one winner when the two have met on a pitch.
The team from Munich have won eight of the 11 meetings across the European Cup, UEFA Cup and Champions League. The other three (all in Lisbon) were draws. Prior to Bayern's 4-0 success earlier in October, the most recent encounters in the 2018/19 group stage saw Bayern win 2-0 in Portugal and then 5-1 back at the Allianz Arena, with Lewandowski getting three goals across those two ties.
The German champions’ overall record against Portuguese opponents is 18 wins, nine draws and only two defeats – both against Porto.