Celtic Vs. Benfica, 2012 UEFA Champions League: Preview And Schedule

SION, SWITZERLAND - JULY 13: Cardozo of SL Benfica celebrates his goal during a pre season friendly match between SL Benfica and Olympique Marseille at Estadio Tourbillon on July 13, 2012 in Sion, Switzerland. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Celtic and Benfica will face each other in an intriguing match, with both sides under-strength and looking to win.

Celtic and Benfica will go into their opening Champions League group stage clash both missing key players as both sides look for an early advantage as they seek to progress to the knockout stages.

The Hoops' midfield duo of Joe Ledley and Biram Kayal were both hoping to return to action in time for the game, but are set to miss out, with Giorgios Samaras and Paddy McCourt also unavailable.

Benfica, meanwhile, have their captain Luisao, who is banned for two months for pushing a referee in pre-season, and Maxi Pereira both suspended. Midfielder Carlos Martins is also missing through injury.

Hoops boss Neil Lennon described Luisao's absence as "a huge bonus" and also pointed out Benfica's weakness in central midfield, having sold both Javi Garcia and Axel Witsel late on in the transfer window:"What they've lost is Garcia and Witsel, who were two big players for them."

Lennon also, however, stressed the quality of Benfica's forwards. "In Cardozo, who is an excellent player and has been for some while, Rodrigo and they've brought in Lima from Braga, who we know from our experiences a couple of years ago, they've got an excellent forward line."

Celtic and Benfica have encountered each other on three separate occasions before, with the home side prevailing in all six matches. Nonetheless, Celtic have gotten off to a poor start in the Scottish Premier League, and with the absence of two key midfielders, will do very well to claim all three points. For Benfica, they have an opportunity to gain an early advantage in their quest to get out of the group stages, but Celtic's formidable home record in European competition is bound to make life difficult for them.

Match Date/Time: Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, 7:45 p.m. local

Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland

TV: DirecTV Soccer (U.S.), Sky Sports 3 (U.K.), Sportsnet World Plus (Canada)

Online: FOX Soccer 2 Go (U.S.)

We'll have coverage of every match in our UEFA Champions League Wednesday StoryStream. For more on the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.

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