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Europa League | Knockout Round Playoffs | 1st Leg
Feb 15, 2024 at 8pm UK
Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica

2 - 1

di Maria (68' pen., 90+8' pen.)
Kokcu (90+2')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Desler (75')
Spierings (37'), Martinez (38'), Desler (43'), Restes (58'), Magri (90+6'), Skytta (90+1'), Mawissa (90+2')
Mawissa (90+6')

Preview: Benfica vs. Toulouse - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Benfica vs. Toulouse - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Benfica and Toulouse, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Toulouse make the trip to Lisbon to face Portuguese champions Benfica in their Europa League playoff round first leg on Thursday.

After a woeful start to their Champions League campaign, Benfica remarkably roared back late in the section to salvage a Europa League spot, while the visitors often put poor domestic form to one side to progress behind Liverpool in their group in this competition.

Match preview

Since turning their Champions League campaign around late in the group phase, Benfica have not looked back, with their matchday six win over Red Bull Salzburg kickstarting a run of 11 wins in 13 games.

After taking zero points from their first four games, Benfica looked certain to crash out of Europe altogether, but following a bizarre 3-3 draw with Inter Milan where they squandered a three-goal lead, Roger Schmidt's men then won away in Austria to leapfrog Salzburg into third.

Finding their shooting boots has been a big factor in their recent success, as those 13 games have seen them score an impressive 35 goals.

One of the two slip-ups came at the weekend though, when Benfica were held by a resolute Vitoria Guimaraes side, with Schmidt's side needing a late leveller from Arthur Cabral to take a point.

On a weekend where three of the top four dropped points though, Porto and Braga now look out of it, meaning it is set to be an all-Lisbon title race this season, with the two tied on 52 points.

Focus will be on Europe for now though, as Benfica return to the Europa League after back-to-back quarter-final exits from the Champions League.

The Portuguese side fell at the first knockout round in both 2019-20 and 2020-21, so there will be expectations of improving upon that this time around.

Benfica reached the final in both 2013 and 2014, but lost both, leaving them on eight successive European finals without a win.

While the hosts are in a rich vein of form, the same cannot be said for visitors Toulouse, who have not improved much since finishing 2023 with a 10-game winless domestic run.

Their only wins from October 1 onwards all came in this competition, as they achieved second place behind Liverpool, but the Coupe de France holders find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle at home.

Despite recent wins over Metz and Reims, a weekend defeat at home fellow strugglers Nantes means they have won just one in 17 at home domestically.

That form has not carried over into the continental matters though, as Toulouse took seven points from a possible nine in the group, including a famous win over Liverpool at the Stade Municipal.

Those home successes, including another win away to LASK Linz, helped Toulouse to progress through a UEFA group stage for the first time at the third attempt, but they have been handed an extremely difficult draw here.

Benfica form (all competitions):

Toulouse Europa League form:

Toulouse form (all competitions):

Team News

After Casper Tengstedt's recent return, Juan Bernat is the only current absentee for Benfica, with the left-back out with a muscular problem.

Schmidt went near-full strength for the weekend fixture with Guimaraes, and he is likely to remain largely unchanged for the visit of the French side.

Cabral was left on the bench though, but came on to score their 90th-minute equaliser, making it four games in a row in which the Brazilian has scored, so he is likely to come into the starting XI here.

Toulouse were able to welcome back both Logan Costa and Moussa Diarra from Africa Cup of Nations duty at the weekend, but both were only named as substitutes.

Manager Carles Martinez will remain without Denis Genreau and Zakaria Aboukhlal due to injury, so new signing Shavy Babicka should start out wide once more.

Babicka showed fine form in the Europa League with Aris Limassol, scoring three goals for the Cypriot debutants in the group stage, but that was still one short of Thijs Dallinga, who is set to spearhead the visiting attack.

Benfica possible starting lineup:
Trubin; Bah, Antonio Silva, Otamendi, Aursnes; Joao Neves, Kokcu, Joao Mario; Di Maria, Arthur Cabral, Rafa Silva

Toulouse possible starting lineup:
Restes; Mawissa Elebi, Costa, Nicolaisen, Diarra; Sierro, Spierings, Casseres; Donnum, Dallinga, Babicka

We say: Benfica 3-0 Toulouse

Despite a minor blip at the weekend, and a recent shock cup exit to Estoril, Benfica have been sensational since December and should have too much firepower for a beleaguered Toulouse side.

Another disappointing defeat at the weekend has plunged Toulouse back into relegation trouble at home, and even though they have performed better on the continent this season, this will be a hugely difficult assignment for the French side.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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