presented by
Respect for Benfica

Guardiola: It's a very tough challenge

Increase font size Text size

There was a European atmosphere at the Allianz Arena on Monday evening. Champions League banners and perimeter advertising decorated the stadium. As Benfica reported for the final training session on the pitch, Pep Guardiola praised his quarter-final opponents in the press centre a few metres away. “I'm very, very impressed by Benfica. I have great respect,” the FCB head coach said 24 hours before the first leg on Tuesday (Live in English from 20.45 CET on Twitter and free Web Radio). “Benfica are on a run, they're better than they've been for a long time. It's going to be a very tough challenge to advance to the semi-finals.”

“I know most of the Brazilians at Benfica. They’ve come here to put up a fight,” agreed Douglas Costa. FCB are wary of the Portuguese record champions, who have won all but one of their last 19 competitive fixtures. To advance to the semi-finals for the fifth time in a row the Reds will need “two focused displays,” stressed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, declaring “any victory with a clean sheet” as the target.

The stats heavily favour the Bavarians, who have won all four of their CL home matches so far this season, with 18 goals scored and three conceded. Moreover, the German record champions have won all three of their home matches against Benfica, by 4-1, 5-1 and 4-1 scorelines. But the numbers will earn FCB nothing on Tuesday. Guardiola expects “an evenly balanced match” and paid tribute to the visitors' style of play, which resembles that of the Bavarians: attack-minded and defending high up the field.

'We have to watch out'

“Benfica defend very aggressively. Their back four are perhaps the best in Europe. They allow hardly any chances and have conceded only 14 goals in all competitions so far,” the Catalan explained. At the same time the men from Munich are aware of the threat posed by Benfica's attacking unit featuring Jonas and Konstantinos Mitroglou. “Both are highly dangerous. Together they've scored 48 goals,” added Manuel Neuer. The FCB netminder expects Benfica to “try and score a goal. We have to watch out.”

Guardiola revealed that he will instruct his troops to “play intelligently, control the game and try to score a goal.” Apart from long-term absentees Jérôme Boatang, Arjen Robben and Holger Badstuber he has the full squad at his disposal. “I have an idea of how to play and of the line-up. But I still need a good night's sleep,” said Guardiola. However, he confirmed that Arturo Vidal will play: “we need players like him who infect others with their energy.” Especially at the Allianz Arena in a European atmosphere.