Hertha Berlin look to upset Benfica

BY foxsports • February 22, 2010

Hertha Berlin must overcome the weight of history if they are to progress to the Europa League round of 16 at the expense of Benfica.

Benfica have lost only once on home soil to German teams in European competition, with Bayern Munich's 1995 UEFA Cup victory the only positive result in 14 fixtures.

Hertha have lost all three of their previous games in Portugal 1-0, but they have won their last two UEFA Europa League away games and enter the contest fresh from a 3-0 Bundesliga win at Freiburg.

Hertha, who are still languishing at the foot of the Bundesliga table, are seeking a double over Portuguese opposition, having beaten Sporting Lisbon in Group D.

However, the Germans lost the earlier preliminary-round contest in the Portuguese capital and face a Benfica side who have won all four of their European home games this season, scoring 13 goals and conceding just one.

The contest at the Stadium of Light is finely poised after a 1-1 draw in Berlin earlier this month.

Angel Di Maria - a reported transfer target for Chelsea - gave the Eagles a fourth-minute lead at the Olympiastadion, but the game ended 1-1 after Javi Garcia directed Lukasz Piszczek's cross into his own net.

Benfica were at full strength during their final training session, with only defender Roderick Miranda absent as he was on international duty with Portugal Under-19s.

Midfielder Ramires is suspended for the contest after picking up a booking in Germany, but Quique Sanchez Flores' side are well-placed to progress, with the relative security of an away goal to their credit.

Hertha coach Lucien Favre, meanwhile, must galvanise his side and encourage them to put their woeful domestic form behind them in the search to extend their European run.

Hertha forward Fanis Gekas knows all about emerging from Portugal with a surprise victory and he is relishing a return to the nation where Greece picked up the European Championship title in 2004.

"For me, it is very important to win there and proceed to the next round," he said on www.uefa.com.

"But the fact we'll be playing in Portugal is special in itself."

The winners of the tie face either FC Copenhagen or Marseille in the round of 16 on 11 and 18 March, playing the first leg at home.

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