The UEFA Champions League group stage draw saw reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich placed in Group E alongside Portugal’s Benfica, the Netherlands’ Ajax and Greek outfit AEK Athens.
Like Bayern, Benfica and Ajax are two names synonymous with European football’s elite club competition, while AEK represent a new foe for the Bavarians.
With the first group fixture to be played on 19 September, we at bundesliga.com have put together some essential reading ahead of Bayern’s pursuit of Champions League glory with a rundown of their Group E rivals.
The two-time European Cup winners have emerged from two qualifying rounds to feature in this year’s group stage after finishing as runners-up to Porto in Primera Liga last season. Victories over Turkish side Fenerbahce and PAOK from Greece have interspersed three league games in a packed start to the season that has seen Benfica go unbeaten in seven games across all competitions.
Key player – Eduardo Salvio
The sides last met in the quarter-finals of the 2015/16 edition of the Champions League, when Bayern booked their place in the semis thanks to a 1-0 win at the Allianz Arena that followed a 2-2 draw in Lisbon. Renato Sanches was with Benfica at the time and this fixture will throw up the prospect of a trip back to the club where the young Portuguese midfielder started his career.
The Argentine winger has been chief mischief maker at Benfica ever since joining from Atletico Madrid six years ago. Quick, intelligent and highly skilful, Salvio is at his best one-on-one with defenders and will need to be watched carefully as he floats across Benfica’s front line, drifting between Bayern’s midfield and defence. With a real eye for goal and immense vision, Salvio will pose a real threat and will be watched carefully by Corentin Tolisso and Co.
Key player – Ezequiel Ponce
The Argentine forward is at AEK on a season-long loan from Roma where he is held in high regard by his Serie A parent club. The 21-year-old is physical and will look to prove a nuisance for the Bayern back four. He will need to make the most of any fleeting moments in front of goal, if AEK are to cause any kind of upset.