Is the third time the charm for Benfica in Catalunya?
When there’s one match remaining on the Champions League group calendar and it’s a must-win fixture, traveling to Barcelona is always a colossal challenge for any team and certainly not the ideal scenario. Tonight we see Benfica take on this imperious side at the Camp Nou for the third time in their history, where they’ve lost on both previous visits.
They first met in the final year of the now-defunct European Cup, the 1991/92 season, where Benfica faced an incredible Barcelona side, known as the ‘Dream Team’. The hosts won the encounter 2-1 and Johan Cruyff led the club to Wembley where they conquered their first European title.
14 years later and Benfica walked out onto the Camp Nou to battle the second-leg of the Champions League quarter-final. Following a hard fought 0-0 draw in Lisbon, this was an open game, although the odds were always against 'O Glorioso'. To no surprise, Benfica were outclassed by another outstanding Barcelona side with Ronaldinho dazzling at his golden best. And once again, they marched forwards and lifted their second European title in Paris.
Unlike the two previous meetings, Barcelona does not need a victory tonight, but that doens’t mean it’ll be an easy match, even if key players are rested. Barcelona are flying, Tito Vilanova has enjoyed a milestone-breaking campaign in La Liga so far, accumulating 40 points from 14 fixtures. If the club’s magical football or clinical form doesn’t crush Benfica - then Leo probably will. While he’s not starting, Messi is expected to play tonight, and he’ll be terrorising his opponents as per usual, alongside an aim to surpass Gerd Muller’s historic record of 85 goals in a calendar year.
With Celtic playing at home against Spartak, a victory is expected from them, meaning Benfica must to win to qualify. Anything is possible - this is the Champions League and tonight Benfica must play like ‘um gigante’ - replicating a performance they produced against Manchester United this time 7 years ago. CARREGA BENFICA!
[Posted by Dominic, probably Benfica’s most passionate fan]