Benfica take on Leixões at the Estádio da Luz tonight, in the Portuguese Cup quarter-finals. The reward for the winner is a semi-final tie against Estoril, who beat Académica yesterday. Speaking ahead of the game, Rui Vitória made it abundantly clear that the tournament is a major priority for the Eagles.
"We have issued a very clear message. Regardless of the competition, the objective is always the same. This is a competition in which we want to go very far... we want to win this game, and we will go into it with huge ambition. The players really want to play and to win. However, we recognise that on the other side is a team that also has the dream of reaching the final... we have to be aware of Leixões' strengths and put our own philosophy on the field."
The visitors won the competition in 1961, overcoming Porto, and also reached the final in 2002, when they were defeated by Sporting. Their current coach is Daniel Kenedy, a Benfica youth product that represented the first team between 1993 and 1996. Although Leixões are languishing in 20th place in the Segunda Liga, Vitória is expecting a highly motivated opponent.
"Whoever arrives at this phase has to have merit. Leixões got through the qualifying stage, so they have their value."
"They won their last game away from home [against Familicão], and they come with the intention of winning here. If you ask the players of Leixões, they all believe that they have something to say in this round. Therefore, I predict a difficult game, against a team with youngsters and quality players - organised by [Daniel] Kenedy - with quality and motivation."
Confronted with second division opposition, will the Encarnados be tempted to rest some first team players? As usual, Vitória kept his cards close to his chest.
"Tomorrow, those that play will be the best for this game, the context and the opponent. We can only choose eleven."
This season, Benfica's average home attendance has been the highest since the Estádio da Luz was inaugurated in 2003. The club's 46-year old coach explained the importance of the fans' continued support.
"There has been a really great empathy - (this is) Benfica in its splendour - and it is with this connection between everyone that we are, in fact, stronger. We will be ever closer to success if we continue this journey together."