Benfica go head-to-head with German giants Borussia Dortmund in Lisbon tonight, in a mouth-watering Champions League round of 16 encounter. On the eve of the game, Rui Vitória faced the press at the Estádio da Luz, and was asked to analyse the principal strengths of Benfica’s illustrious opponents.
“We will face a strong team… very difficult… that has as a characteristic great offensive power. Allied to this, they change their (tactical) system with ease, without lowering their respective performance levels, creating unpredictability for other teams.”
“The (only) way is to study all of their dynamics in detail, but never to abandon our way of being, our attitude, and our ambition. We will be the same team… ambitious, determined, and (full of) conviction! We really believe in our value, and Dortmund also have to be cautious with Benfica. Tomorrow, the Benfiquistas will be here and we will show how things are in a game of this magnitude. We have already won many games in which we weren’t favourites.”
Thomas Tuchel’s men are not in the greatest form at the moment; they required extra-time and penalties to defeat Hertha Berlin in the German Cup on Wednesday night, before losing 2-1 to the Bundesliga’s bottom club, SV Darmstadt, on Saturday afternoon. So is now the ideal moment to be facing Dortmund?
“I don’t look at things in this way, and I don’t think that there are ‘ideal moments’ when we talk about the Champions (League). Games in the Champions League have different demands to games in the championship.”
The visit of Dortmund has added significance for Benfica’s captain Luisão. After turning 36 on Monday, the vastly experienced central defender looks set to play his 500th competitive game for the club this evening. The ex-Brazil international is currently fourth on Benfica’s all-time appearance list, with only Mário Coluna (525), António Veloso (538) and Nené (575) ahead of him.
Vitória paid tribute to his inspirational skipper ahead of his big night: “It is a (source of) great pride to be his coach, because it is rare for a player to complete this feat in Portugal and at Benfica.”
“I’m very satisfied… I hope that he will play tomorrow and light up the game with a goal.”
Benfica’s goalkeeper Ederson should make his ninth Champions League start on Tuesday, and may be in for a busy night against a Dortmund side that boasts the likes of Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé. Indeed, the young shot-stopper is under no illusions as to the scale of the task ahead.
“We are expecting a very even game, with many opportunities… it will be very complicated, but we hope to emerge as victors.”
Having represented his country five times at under-23 level, Ederson received his first senior call-up for last summer’s Copa America, only to miss out on the tournament through injury. Brazil’s goalkeeping coach Cláudio Taffarel is currently in Lisbon to assess the youngster, so is Ederson feeling any additional pressure?
“I’m calm. I’m not dazzled (by this), and I focus on my daily work."
"I have matured a lot and improved in various aspects, and that is what I continue to work on.”
Benfica travel to fourth-placed Braga on Sunday for a potentially tricky fixture in the Liga NOS, a game for which Ederson is suspended. The 23-year old denied that his teammates already have one eye on that challenge, stating: “We are only focused on tomorrow’s game.”