Europa League SF 2nd Leg, 8.05pm, Live on ITV4
Match Odds: Benfica 1.44, Fener 9.0, the draw 4.9
FENERBAHCE have the upper hand in this tie after ending Benfica's run of 29 matches without defeat.
The Turkish giants' 1-0 success in the first leg was certainly merited – Egemen Korkmaz's 72nd-minute winner came after Moussa Sow had struck the bar with a header, Dirk Kuyt had rattled a post and Cristian had smacked a penalty against an upright.
Benfica struggled defensively without influential skipper Luisao and although Nicolas Gaitan clipped an effort against the woodwork, the Portuguese league leaders created little in attack.
The market clearly expects Benfica to win this match but I think their price of 1.44 is too short and I am surprised Fener are available at a chunky 2.06 in the to qualify market.
Aykut Kocaman's side were the better team last week and are unbeaten in six Europa League away games this term. They racked up wins at Borussia Monchengladbach, AEL and Marseille in the group stage and in the knockout phase they've ground out creditable draws at BATE Borisov and Lazio and won 1-0 at Napoli's conquerors Viktoria Plzen.
Fener's defensive record in the competition has been excellent. They have kept eight clean sheets in 13 games and conceded more than one goal in just one of their away matches.
The loss to suspension of midfielder Mehmet Topal and striker Pierre Webo is a double blow but the defence is intact and midfielder Caner Erkin is available after suspension.
Former Liverpool and Chelsea midfield battler Raul Meireles is out for the season.
Benfica are boosted by the return from suspension of Enzo Perez and the availability of Luisao, although flying winger Ola John is suspended.
Benfica are presumably such heavy favourites based on their impressive home record. They have won 11 of their 13 home games in the Portuguese League, drawing the other two. In European competition the Eagles have won five home matches out of six, losing the other to Barcelona in the Champions League.
This all looks very good but when you drill down a bit further you realise all is not what it seems. If Benfica concede a goal on Thursday they'll need to score three times to reach the final and have kept just two clean sheets in six European home games.
Although Jorge Jesus' men have won all three of their Europa League home games they weren't entirely convincing in any of those victories. They needed a late goal and an excellent display from keeper Artur to see off Bayer Leverkusen, managed just two shots on target in a dour 1-0 win over Bordeaux and were gifted two goals as they came from behind to beat Newcastle 3-1.
I have been really impressed by the grit and determination shown by Fener and they have enough quality in attack to score a precious away goal. Benfica's home record is good but it has a whiff of “The Emperor's New Clothes” about it.
I don't think they are as strong an outfit as some observers, and indeed the market, seem to think. If Fener score, Benfica are in big trouble, so it seems sensible to back the Turkish side to qualify at 2.06.
Under 2.5 Goals is too big at 2.18 – that bet would have paid out in all seven of Fener's Europa League knockout matches and in eight of Benfica's 13 European games this term.
Back Fenerbahce to qualify at 2.06
Back Under 2.5 Goals at 2.18