Benfica make the short trip to Belenenses’ Estádio do Restelo tonight, where they will face Real Sport Clube in the fifth round of the Portuguese cup. Real are currently top of Group G in the Campeanato de Portugal, the third tier of the Portuguese football pyramid. To reach this stage, the Queluz-based outfit have eliminated Rabo de Peixe, São Martinho, Arouca and Olhanense. Rui Vitória has warned his players not to underestimate a team that has only conceded four times and lost just once in thirteen league games this season.
"I expect an opponent that is obviously very motivated. It is a Portuguese cup game and at these times, all of the teams believe that their day of happiness will arrive. Clearly we are talking about two different realities in terms of what the clubs are, but at these times there is always a really great extra motivation for the team that plays in the championship of a theoretically much lower level."
"I expect a difficult opponent that has been putting a lot of quality into what they're doing, (having) an excellent campaign in their competition, and will naturally really believe that it is possible to overcome us."
"On our part, (we will do) the same thing that we have been doing, which is to look at our opponents in the same way. In fact, there is no other way to be in this respect, and we don't avoid this reality. Only by being very close to our limit can we win matches. Here, we don't even talk about issues of respect, because (the issue) doesn't even arise."
"There is respect in all competitions and towards all opponents. Our preparation for this game was exactly the same as we'd do for any opponent."
The proximity of tonight’s game to Sunday’s Lisbon derby has left relatively little time for preparation, but other than that, it has been business as usual at Benfica’s training base in Seixal.
"The only thing that could have had some influence here (is) the gap between the games, but this has nothing to do with the opponent. Besides that, everything involved in the daily work of preparation for a game - and of the analysis of the opponent - was done in the same way as it is always done. There's no other way of thinking and no other way of working with me. So we know all about the problems Real [Sport Clube] can cause us, we know their strengths, we are perfectly acquainted with everything about the Real team, and we are prepared for the game."
"(Our) team is well... naturally, working after victories is better than working after defeats, and after a victory like we achieved this Sunday, the team is obviously (feeling) well... although we have not had much time to reflect on this reality.”
After tough battles with Marítimo, Napoli and Sporting, will Benfica’s coach take the opportunity to rest some players before they return to league action against Estoril on Saturday?
"Concerning tomorrow's game, the best (players) will start because we understand that it has to be like this. That said, they will be the best (players) for this particular context... those that will give the best response to (the problems that) Real can pose us. I predict some changes, which is perfectly normal."
"Some of these players haven't played because I, the coach, haven't picked them, but they have more than enough ability to play for this team."
On Monday morning, the draw was held for the Champions League round of 16. Benfica will face German heavyweights Borussia Dortmund, who occupy seventh place in the latest UEFA rankings. With nine weeks to go until the first leg at the Estádio da Luz, Vitória was reluctant to discuss the tie in any detail.
"They are a difficult opponent, but very appealing at the same time. Until then there are at least 13 games... two months and one day... until then there are many things to accomplish, starting with tomorrow's game which right now is the most important. Afterwards, when the time of the game with Borussia Dortmund arrives, we will talk about this opponent with more objectivity."