Spyin Kop; Benfica (European Champions League)

Posted by cowtownred on February 16, 2006, 09:34:37 PM

The bleak winter draws to a close;  well-travelled banners and flags have been dusted-down in readiness;  tickets, passports and foreign currency prepared in eager anticipation.   Yes, at long last the travelling Reds are nearing their 'raison d'etre'...  the resumption of European competition.  The 5-times European Champions prepare to continue their defence of the trophy so heroically won in Istanbul.

And what better venue than Lisbon?   Which opponents better equipped, more steeped in tradition and history?  Where to find more loyal and passionate supporters of the beautiful game?

The first knockout stage of this years Champions League pairs two of the most honoured exponents of European Club football.  Not the tie between Barca and the cockney upstarts...  where only one club has held the title ''Champions of Europe''.  Nor the tie between Real Madrid, the connoisseurs, and another European Champion ''virgin''. 

No, there are two ties which immediately atract the attention of the seasoned European football watcher.  The first pairs 6 time winners, Milan,  with 4 time champions Bayern.  However, the tie which invokes all the romance associated with this most loved and respected of all football prizes, is surely that which pairs the holders, 5 time Champions Liverpool FC,  raised on a glorious past;  suffering ignominious decline,  before raising themselves to defy the odds and re-establish themselves amongst the greats once more.....  and SL Benfica, Champions of Portugal,  raised on a glorious past;  suffering ignominious decline,  before re-establishing themselves once more.  A fixture to anticipate.
SL Benfica vs Liverpool FC - CL 1st knock-out round

1st leg, Estadio da Luz, Lisbon     Feb. 21st 2006

2nd leg, Anfield, Liverpool      March 8th 2006


Sport Lisboa e Benfica (commonly referred to as simply SL Benfica, Benfica or Benfica Lisbon; is a comprehensive sports club based in Lisbon, Portugal. It is notably renowned for its football branch, which is its most popular department. Benfica was founded in 1904 as Sport Lisboa, but underwent a name change in 1908 after merging with Sport Club de Benfica. It is also known to its fans by the nickname "Glorioso" (Glorious).
Benfica was one of Europe's first powerhouses, and was the first team to break Real Madrid's dominance in the early European Champions Cup. Having won two European Cups in a row (1961 and 1962), the Lisbon club never managed to win a European trophy again, despite losing 5 ECC finals, most ingloriously to a team from Manchester in 1968.
During the 1970s, the team faded slightly from the European scene, but remained the main force inside the Portuguese football scene. However, financial problems began undermining the club. In the 1980s the board decided to close the third level in the Estadio da Luz, and a questionable signing policy (which included squads composed of well over 30 players, signing players for hefty sums without any sporting or financial return, resulted in several problems in the years ahead.
Recently, the club has managed to regain some of its sporting and financial prowess and has won the 2004/05 Superliga, a victory which set off countrywide celebrations.
Benfica play their home games in the new Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (unofficially "Estádio da Luz", literally the stadium of light , also called "A Catedral" meaning the cathedral) - which is partly built on top of the old stadium grounds -, one of Europe's largest sporting stadiums and host of the Euro 2004 final. They are Portugal's internal most decorated football team, having won 31 domestic league titles (44 percent of Portuguese national titles), 24 Portuguese Cups, and the second most decorated Portuguese team abroad having two European Cups. It is the most popular and supported sports club in Portugal (which once led to then president Manuel Vilarinho, claim "six million", which is statistically questionable, given the national population of ten million) and in the Portuguese [emigrant] comunities spread around the world.

Team honours

In terms of league championships (called Primeira Liga or Superliga), the club is the most successful in the history of Portuguese football.
Portuguese National Championships (a.k.a. I Divisão or I Liga): 31
1935/36, 1936/37, 1937/38, 1941/42, 1942/43, 1944/45, 1949/50, 1954/55, 1956/57, 1959/60, 1960/61, 1962/63, 1963/64, 1964/65, 1966/67, 1967/68, 1968/69, 1970/71, 1971/72, 1972/73, 1974/75, 1975/76, 1976/77, 1980/81, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1986/87, 1988/89, 1990/91, 1993/94, 2004/05.
Portuguese Cups: 24
1939/40, 1942/43, 1943/44, 1948/49, 1950/51, 1951/52, 1952/53, 1954/55, 1956/57, 1958/59, 1961/62, 1963/64, 1968/69, 1969/70, 1971/72, 1979/80, 1980/81, 1982/83, 1984/85, 1985/86, 1986/87, 1992/93, 1995/96, 2003/04.
Portuguese Supercups: 4
1979/80, 1984/85, 1988/89, 2004/2005.
Portuguese Championships: (between 1921/22 and 1937/38): 3
1929/30, 1930/31, 1934/35.
European Cups: 2
1960/61, 1961/62.

Spyin' Kop

Spyin' Kop enlisted the help of four fluent English speaking, lifelong Benfica supporters in the preparation of this feature.

Special thanks to Miguel,  a RAWKite posting as Benfica1904,  who kindly put me in touch with 3 fellow 'gloriosos' ;  Antonio Guerreiro (exiled in London),  Paulo ,  and Carlos.

1.  Its great to see Benfica return to the big European stage.  You must feel delighted to be back?

Miguel -  Yes, definitely! It feels like waking up from a coma or something. We had been living a horrible nightmare that started in June 1994 and ended last year with our much awaited league title. During this period the club almost had to shut doors due to massive debts and irresponsible management. We also had the worst results of our 102-year history (both domestically and in Europe), failing to even qualify for the UEFA cup for two consecutive years (for the first time ever!)
Widespread corruption in our league made things even worse, Benfica never had a good team in this period but when a club (Porto) pays referees to deliberately make us lose games… Fortunately this is all being investigated (the trial should start soon) and I’m confident that Porto will be relegated to the 2nd division and their chairman will be sent to jail (fingers crossed!).
We’re now back where we belong, after all we have reached the European Cup final for 7 times and the UEFA Cup final once. We need to be in the centre stage of European football, and European football needs big clubs like us as well. European games have always been something magical, winning our domestic league is fine, but achieving success in Europe is what really distinguishes good clubs from legendary clubs. Arsenal -> Liverpool, for example.

Carlos - Oh yes I am...We all are!We didn't qualify to the CL since 1998 and we have been two seasons out of Europe, in 2001 and 2002.We have just recently came up from the deepest crisis in our history and the return to the main stage is being fantastic,specially for the youngest fans - as me - who didn't witness our great achievements in the past 60's and 80's.Our career is algo being delightful due to the strenght and loyalty shown by Benfica supporters - we silenced Old Trafford and El Madrigal,had more than 40.000 fans at Stade de France,created an infernal atmosphere against Manchester in the Luz...Prepare yourselves to meet Benfica fans

Paulo -Well, its been a while since Benfica reached the qualification for the Champions League. And I’m loving it! Right after the draw (and we were in the 4th pot) we all thought it was possible to get through the group stage. We could have finished 1st in our group, but having superbly crashed ManUtd was enough for me. Now, he have a great challenge: play the European Champion.
And watch out, cause the giant has awoken.

Antonio - After what our club has been through in the mid late ninties, nearly going out of existance, manegement scandal after manegement scandal, mediocrity and sheer dispair, it seems like Christmas everyday to see a new stadium, a prestine new training ground, a team full of talent, renewed hope and a growing number of "socios" or fully paid up members, in fact we are after a certain team from across the penines the club with the most members in Europe 170 thousand at the moment. Above all Benfica are where they belong, Champions of Portugal, playing other world class clubs like Liverpool.. If anything we are a living demonstration of how to completly screw up a world class club, and wipe the board and start again!! beating Man u (the Mancs to you guys!!! heheheh) was I believe the end of the begining for us! playing Liverpool will will be that next step.

2.  Did you enjoy your group stage triumph over Manchester USA as much as we all did?

-  Nah, we enjoyed it much more. It was the confirmation that the sleeping giant had finally woken up. Besides, beating Man. Utd. Is always fun, I must say that I hate Manchester United, they make me sick with all that “we’re the biggest club in the world” rubbish. When they arrived in Lisbon, Ferguson was so arrogant saying stuff like “oh, we’re Manchester United so we will win for sure”, “we don’t care about Benfica”, “we are so much better”, etc, it made me fuc*ing angry! I think this made Benfica players angry as well, and in the end I must thank Fergie for helping make things a little bit easier for us with all that arrogant nonsense, if it wasn’t for that I don’t know if the players would have been so motivated. When we scored the 2nd goal I almost had multiple orgasms! And I’m sure the Leeds United fans were even happier than the Liverpool fans, our forum was full of them wishing us good luck before the game…

Carlos - I suppose the whole England(Liverpool,London,Leeds,etc.)enjoyed our victory over Man United.But I guess we enjoyed it twice as much you did!That game meant a lot to us,not only in the sporting side and re-conquest of some lost international reputation,but also in an economical side...The victory over the 'mancs',as you funnily call them,was also wonderful because we had 5 starters injured while they were in their greatest strenght and had some wins in a row.Finally,I will never forget the infernal atmosphere lived in the Estádio da Luz during the SLB-MUFC - completely shivery!!

Paulo -  We were absolutely amazed with our victory. Especially after Fergunson had been sayin all week we didn’t stand a chance. I believe we enjoyed it even more then you did.. we made an outstanding exhibition, and showed the world what we are capable of. Portugal was astonished, the millions of anti-Benfica had nowhere to stick in..
Also, a similar situation happened with us the next day, when our fcporto rivals were eliminated by rangers, and we were equally thrilled with that.

Antonio - Is the world round?? with out 5 very important Players, playing a club full of "superstars" needing to win and comming from behind!! that night I remember saying to friends (in a drunken stupor I admit) the spirit of Benfica has been re borne! the inferno of the "ESTADIO DA LUZ was back, after what we had been through it was a very emotional game . Also thank you to all Leeds and Liverpool fans for your messages of support at SL-BENFICA.COM in the weeks leading up to the game, they where much appreciated, particularly by me becouse I live in England.

3. How is your domestic season shaping up?

Miguel -  This season has been like a roller coaster ride. We had an awful start, after the first 3 games of our league we were already 8 points behind the leaders… We then had 6 consecutive wins (including CL and FA cup), followed by 6 consecutive games without winning (including CL), then another 9 consecutive wins, including the one against Man Utd. As you can see we haven’t been very consistent… several straight wins followed by a handful of bad results. Porto are the leaders with 48 points, followed by Benfica and Sporting with 43 points, Braga 41 and two teams with 39 points. Porto still have to play in Lisbon twice at Benfica and Sporting so I’m reasonably confident that we can win the title again but it’s going to be very difficult.. Beating Man. Utd. really helped to boost the team’s confidence and we had great games after that (those 9 consecutive wins). Confidence is a good thing, excessive confidence, on the other hand, is not. Because of that we lost 3-1 in Luz against Sporting a few weeks ago, a game we should have won under normal circumstances given the weak team Sporting have this year. That result really affected the team and the following week we had another 3-1 defeat, against Leiria. I hope I’m wrong, but these two games may have cost us this year’s title.

Carlos - Well,we have been very irregular at home so far.At the league we have already dropped 10 points in 33 matches in the Luz,including two humiliating losts against Gil Vicente and Sporting.IMO our great fault is the lack of attitude at the initial period of the game;we should start the game in a more intense way so that we could score 1 or 2 goals and then manage the result.However,the team prefers to sleep during the 1st halves,wake up by the minute 60 and then start to run desperately against the time.This succeeds specially in the Luz,I mean,I consider we play better away...Despite that,we defeated Lille and Man United here.So be aware ;)
Paulo -  Our start was very lame; we only got one point in the first three games. However, we managed to recover pretty fine. After our win over the mancs (as you say), our team got motivated and went on to get 9 wins in row. Now, we’re 5 points behind the leader, fcp.. and for me the home league is first! Then Europe..

Antonio - inconsistant to a certain degree Ronald Koeman has taken a while to adapt to Portuguese football and our League which is much better than the Dutch League. We had a terrible start to the season loosing 8 points in the first three games, but we have also beaten Porto away and had a run of 9 games with out loosing or conceeding. As I wright this to you we won 4-0 yesterday. I believe we will win the "superliga" which is our main priority. The quality of the Portuguese League has grown considerably in the last 20 years so it is much harder to win but I am confident.

4. We know about Simao Sabrosa.  Which other players should we look out for?

Miguel -  Hard to say, depends of what goes inside Ronald Koeman’s head… He likes to keep the best players out of the starting 11, for some strange reason. Our most dangerous players for this tie, especially for the second leg in Anfield where we’ll play in counter-attack, would be (in my opinion) Simao, Miccoli and Geovanni. Geovanni is an ex-Barcelona player, he can play as right-winger or striker, although he prefers to be upfront scoring goals and not to play on the RW. Miccoli is an ex-Juventus forward, in the style of Romario. The reason why you should be afraid is that they are small, lightening fast (except when Geovanni is playing on the RW) and very agile. English teams/defenders usually have a hard time with these kind of players because they are used to face big, strong (and sometimes not so agile nor fast) strikers in the PL. Having said that it’s almost impossible that both Geovanni and Miccoli will be in the starting 11, they can’t defend and Koeman will probably prefer more midfielders and less forward players. There is also Nelson, our amazing right-back, if you watched our game against Man Utd you probably remember him. If you don’t know him, just imagine a faster, hard working and more intelligent Miguel (Valencia).

Carlos - At the moment Simão Sabrosa isn't our key player.He has been it for 4 seasons but not this year.Firtsly,he has been injured almost 3 months and the team won many games that period,which put an end to the called,by the portuguese press,Simão-dependence in Benfica(those 4 previous years we never won a match without Simão).Secondly,he seems to have lost motivation and joy when playing,probably due to the failed transfer to England.Even though I still think Simão is one of the top european left wingers and he must be target of your defense attention.I'll talk about the players you should fear in the following question.

Paulo -  I think Benfica’s worth for the whole, although we have some key players as well. Our rising star Nelson is probably one of Europe’s best right defenders. Our defence is also very strong, mostly because the ‘boss’ Luisao is an extraordinary CD. We also have Nuno Gomes, our best scorer – I think this last one doesn’t need presentations.

Antonio - Our strengh last season was our team ethic, as such I believe our unit as a whole can be fomidableour centre defence is composed of two brazilian international Luizao and Anderson, our two wing back Nelson and Leo. Leo is a current international for Brazil and Nelson to be quite honest is a fenomena!! what a player. in midfield we have Petit our "enforcer" or our Xabi Alonso if you like there is Simao of course and Laurent Robert on the wings to start against you guys. up front Nuno gomes and Geovanni should start, Nuno is in fantastic form and Geo is the man of the moment!.

5. This season which players have done well, and which not so well...?

Miguel -  Nelson has been amazing this season, we bought him last summer from Boavista, I had no idea he had this enormous talent! Leo, our Brazilian left back, awesome talent as well, a bit like Nelson (small and lightning fast) but with more experience, played a few times for his national team. Nuno Gomes had a great start of the season, he is still the leader of the goal scorers table but wasn’t scored much lately. But he is still a great player none the less and has done well so far this season.

Players not doing so well…. Hmmm… I would say Manuel Fernandes and Simao. It’s not that they’ve been playing badly, but we always expect a lot from Manuel and especially Simao, so when they have a so-so performance it looks like they had an awful game, which is a bit unfair to be honest. They have also been very unlucky this season, with lots of injuries and in case of Simao he also had to face the enormous pressure of the constant transfer rumours. I hope you’ll see the real Simao in a few weeks time, because he hasn’t played that well recently and part of it is because of you!

Carlos -  IMO our best player this season has been Petit,the centre midfielder of the team.At the back we have good players but the defense is not as strong as people here in Portugal(and maybe in England too)say.Luisão and Anderson make a strong partnership but they often have inattentions during the game,specially the 2nd one.The full-backs are both too short but have a huge quality though:Nelson,the right-back,is a skillful player with very nice technique and capable of making perfect crosses into the area;Leo is a fast and offensive left-back,very intelligent "reading" the game and almost unsurpassable when defending (ask C.Ronaldo!).At the offensive midfield we have some good options and I can't predict who will start the game.Karagounis is an extraordinary player but he incompreensively plays few often by Koeman's choice...Miccoli is an excellent striker but has been injured the most of the season.Geovanni,when playing at center striker - and not right winger -,can also perform well,as you've probably seen in the SLB-MU.Finally,Nuno Gomes is making his best season since he came from Italy.However,0 goals in the 6 games of the group stage might be a bad signal...Our "not so good" player is Beto,he is just horrible with the ball in his feet!

Paulo -  Best? Nuno Gomes! Simply a fantastic season for him – 14 goals so far.. As I said, Nelson also did an impressive beginning of the season. Then there’s Petit, also known as ‘Pittbull’, you’ll see.. he recovers many balls, he’s everywhere, he’s determined, he’s really a Pittbull out there

6.  What were your thoughts when the draw paired you with the reigning Champions of Europe?

Miguel -  I was happy to be honest. I wanted to avoid Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan, my preferred teams were Inter Milan, Arsenal and Liverpool. Inter Milan seem to be a bit stronger now, with Figo playing well, so that leaves Liverpool and Arsenal. Even though you are the reigning champions you are not the best team in Europe, and you know it. Cup competitions are always unpredictable, Porto won it, Liverpool won it, neither of these teams were the best, so everything is possible.
Besides, facing the reigning champions has its advantages, if we win, it will be a massive achievement, beating the champions and all that. If we lose, we can just say “well, we lost to the European Champions, they were the favourites, etc”. The pressure is on you, we’re the underdogs and we like it this way. We’re in the same situation you were last year, if you think about it.

Carlos - I hope you won't take this as an offense but I smiled when the draw paired our two teams.Despite Liverpool are the Champions of Europe it would be much worse to face(by this order)Juventus,Chelsea or Barcelona...I secondly thought on the atmosphere that would(and will)be created around the games in the Luz 'Hell' and at the mithic Anfield!

Paulo -  I smiled. It’s always great to play big teams. It will surely be 180 (maybe plus 30) minutes of fantastic football.. Just don’t know how much the responsibility of being Champions League and Intercontinental Cup holders will be a burden for you.

Antonio -  My Initial thought was "good draw!" for a few reasons. With all the respect in the world to a great club like Liverpool the two I wanted to avoid where Juve and Barca. However I believe Liverpool will be a much harder task than Man u becouse I believe they are a better side. It will be a great test for our team, our fans and our manegement, and it will be a HUUUUUGE honour to visit a mythical stadium such as Anfield, in an equally Mythical footballing town that is Liverpool. I can not wait!!!

7.  What did you know about Liverpool FC before the draw?

- I didn’t know much about your current squad, but more about the club history, your trophies, your legendary players, your stadium. Benfica fans remember all too well the great Liverpool of the 80’s, in fact the first game I watched in Estadio da Luz was the 1984 match, Benfica 1-4 Liverpool (bastards… you almost traumatized me for life). When I was a little kid Liverpool were the kings of Europe, if it wasn’t for the Heysel tragedy you could have won more European trophies. I remember Ian Rush, Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Bruce Grobbelaar and many other players from the 80’s. Recently you’ve had other great players such as Owen, Fowler, Abel Xavier (the best of them all hehehe!) but your last league title was in 1990. I knew your stadium (I though its name was Anfield Road, not just Anfield) and that the atmosphere there is amazing but had never heard about the “Kop” stand. I was also aware that your city rivals are Everton, a bit like Benfica and Sporting Lisbon, but to be honest there’s no real comparison between these clubs except their location. Liverpool and Benfica are 150 times bigger and better than Everton and Sporting Lisbon respectively. I know some of your current players: Gerrard, Morientes, Dudek, Alonso, Cisse, etc, but don’t know much about your style of play, except that you have a strong defence and crap strikers, or so I heard. There’s also the Hillsborough tragedy, I watched it on the TV, but let’s not talk about that. RIP the 96.

Carlos - I've watched the most of your games since December and Liverpool's squad has great quality.Reina is a good GK but I don't think the defense is too strong - Hippya and Carragher aren't too fast and will probably feel difficulties with Geovanni and Nuno Gomes mobility;Finnan is a good defender but few offensive;at the left there's your best defender,IMO a World class player,called Riise...Liverpool's big strength is its midfield - Gerrard is the fantastic player we all know,Xabi Alonso is spectacularly cerebral and has huge class,and Sissoko runs km's and is much tall.The tie will be mostly decided in this area and that's why I consider essential the work which will be done,or not,by Petit-M.Fernandes-Karagounis/Karyaka in both games.At the attack,your stars are Luis Garcia and Morientes - I really enjoy watching both of them!I consider Kewell a skillful player but he is much inconsequent in his plays...Cissé will never be a great player - much pace and physical power but very few intelligence in and out of the pitch - and Crouch is just poor.Finally,you have at the bench the 3rd best coach of the World(below Capello and Mourinho)not only by his abilities managing the team but also by his healthy and right attitude dealing with his players and with the opponents.

Paulo -  I know you have a glorious past, and that you’ve “won it five times”. I also like your anthem – you’ll never walk alone – it’s seriously one of the most brilliant football club anthems I’ve ever heard.
‘Bout the present, I’ve seen many matches of ‘pool so far this season. I know every player of yours and your system of playing [4-2-2-2\ 4-2-3-1 preferably].

Antonio -Simple this one, I follow football a lot and there are 5 or six truly great European clubs Liverpool are without a shadow of dought one of them, not becouse they are rich but becouse they have a great history, very loyal fans and becouse they mean a lot to football lovers. Liverpool are a club who do things properly and who in my opinion are a bastion of the beutifull game. the others by the way are Benfica, Juve, Milan Barca Man and Real. The great Liverpool tem of the eighties are one of the seven wonders of the world! like we wher in the sixties and the late eighties.

8.  Did you watch the final on May 25th, 2005?

-I only watched the first half and the penalty shoot-out hehehe! I thought “man, this is ridiculous, the worst final ever! Milan will win 15-0”. So I called a few of my mates and made our very own champions league tournament on the Playstation 2. When we finished playing the penalty shoot-out was about to start, we saw the final score… 3-3… <dramatization>we all started crying and banging our heads against the wall, how could have we missed that?!</dramatization>. Brilliant comeback from Liverpool. Watched the highlights of the match a bit later, but it’s not the same thing as watching it live. Oh well, this serves as a lesson.

Carlos -  Of course I did.At the break my brother told me "that game is already over for Liverpool,do you wanna go for a ride?".I answered him "no,if Milan scored 3 in 45 minutes why would Liverpool be unable to do the same?".And so they did!There was a moment at the final I will never forget - when both teams entered the pitch at the break,every Liverpool fans stood up,raised their scarves and chanted the 'You'll Never Walk Alone' from the deep of their soul..It was wonderful to listen and watch that!That strength given by them meant much more than a simple goal!Well,about the game...Liverpool deserved to win it due to the magnificent 2nd half.But you also had divine help,specially when Sheva could have scored twice at the end of the overtime... :)

Paulo -  Woow, those 15 minutes killed me. I think Benitez has most of the credit for that victory. Playing with only 3 defenders was risky, even though Hamann was very defensive.. That was, I guess, the greatest recovery in a Champions League final. You deserved to win it on the penalties, and I congratulate you for that.

Antonio - Fantastic! I remember making a comment on SL-BENFICA.COM that the incredible Liverpool victory is a lesson to all that money is not everything!! I can draw a parrelel between that night and Istanbull and us winning the "superliga in that it was a victory for football values, for true team work for humility I was absolutly delighted although I was sad for the great Benfica Icon that is Rui Costa. It is safe to say that Liverpool is the most popular and respected English team in Portugal.

9.  Which of our players do you fear?  And what are our weaknesses?

Miguel - I don’t fear any of your players in particular, not that they are crap, but in my opinion your strength lies in the team and how they perform as a unit, not in the individual talent of 2 or 3 players. Besides, to be honest you don’t have any players who can decide a game by themselves like Ronaldinho, Henry, etc, so you must take a different approach, it seems to have worked so far. Look at Real Madrid, lots of individual talent but no team, in today’s football that won’t take you very far.

Carlos - The player I fear the most is obviously Gerrard who is by far the best player in the team and one of the greatest world football stars.I also admire Riise,Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia.As I say above,your great weakness is the slowness of your defense.[ironic mode On]Ah,and I also fear a lot the killer instint from Peter Crouch [ironic mode Off] ;)

Paulo -  I think your midfield is where you can rely. Sissoko, Gerrard and Xabi are magnificent players. But my favourite player is Luis Garcia, I think he can make the difference (as he did today). I’m not very found of Fowler, I prefer Crouch, not that I find him a remarkable player.. Your main weakness is probably the defence. Even with the joining of Kromkamp I don’t think you’re defence is good enough for our attack. (hope not)Your biggest weakness is by far the lack of quality of your strikers. Crouch, Cisse, Morientes… I wouldn’t want any of them to be honest. Great coach, quality keeper, strong defence, hard working midfield, but your attack is horrible. You now have Robbie Fowler again, but is he fit? He used to be an awesome striker, lethal as a Magnum .44 but haven’t seem much of him since he moved to Liverpool so I can’t comment on that.
There is also the “we’re much better than you so we’ll win easily” attitude of most English teams when playing in Europe, I not saying you have it but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the next coming weeks, amongst the fans or the players. Lots of users in this forum are already talking about the quarter-finals, or even making travel arrangements for the final where you’ll win it for the 6th time...

Antonio - Who do I fear??? Gerrard! what a player! Manuel Fernandes against him will be fascinating I also like Xabi Alonso, I believe down the wings in particular is where we can begin to beat Liverpool , also in my opinion Hypia and Carregher are ther for the taking BUT it will be difficult, Liverpool are what they are for there collective quality. Robbie Fowller comming back should be interesting also.

10. We love European away trips..  Will we have a good time, and be welcomed in Lisbon? 

Miguel - Hell no! We’ll throw stones at you and burn your embassy!
Seriously, you’ll all be welcomed, I’m sure you’ll have a great time in Lisbon, whether Liverpool win or not. Benfica fans are very friendly (unless you are a Porto or Sporting supporter…), and I hope to meet some of you in Lisbon and have a few beers. You can make as much as noise and drink as much beer as you can in Lisbon, as long as you don’t cause any trouble the police will let you do whatever you want in Rossio square (your most probable meeting point for Tuesday afternoon). The best Portuguese beer is Superbock, but make sure you eat properly before drinking heavily, that stuff is not for the faint of heart. The whether here has been quite nice for the last couple of days (18º C), unlike 2 weeks ago when it snowed in Lisbon (what the f*ck??!!) for the first time since 1952!

Carlos - You will certainly love the wonderful city of Lisbon and our magnificent Stadium.I don't know if any of you has been in Portugal during the Euro-2004 or at any other time,but the most of us are really nice and hospitable people.Benfica and Liverpool fans support two great and historical clubs and I'm sure we will all contribute to make a big feast before,during and after the game!

Paulo -  Hell yeah! Lisbon is a fantastic city, people here in Portugal are very kind, you’ll love it here, although I advice you to also pay a visit to Oporto, where I live. Don’t forget the food (especially pasteis de belém) The atmosphere before, during and after the game is amazing. Estádio da Luz is huge, can you imagine 65 thousand throats cheerin’? That will be an unforgettable trip for you, win or lose, I assure you.

Antonio - Portuguese make it a point of honour to make visitors welcome, without a shadow of dought you will be welcome to my home town! we on sl.benfica.com are planning to get together with your fans etc. Our fans are some of the most passionate in the world and our teams 12th player BUT no "welcome to hell" etc from us we are true Football fans. Lisbon is a wonderfull city with a lot to do, I also hope you guys enjoy the "CATEDRAL DO ESTADIO DA LUZ!" we are very proud opf our stadium it brings our club a lot of prestige we in Portugal call it the "cathedral" plus in Portugal we like the English so I believe all round you guys (off the pitch!! heheh) will have a great time and be made to feel very welcome it IS THE PORTUGUESE WAY! in fact if you are not we will take it personally!

11.  What excites you most about your trip to Anfield?

- The legendary Anfield atmosphere is renowned throughout the world, I’ve downloaded some videos and audio files and you guys are great singers, have you ever considered a career in the opera?This is the first time I watch a Benfica game in England so it will be very special. I’ve never been to Liverpool either so I’m looking forward to it.

Carlos - I won't go to Anfield by many reasons though I would love to.Despite that I'll be in the Luz on the 21st of February - I've been counting the days to this game since December :) - on the 3rd floor of the Stadium next to Liverpool fans ;)

Paulo -  I won’t be at Anfield, unfortunately. I guess there’s no point telling you what doesn’t excite me.. But I think Anfield, alike most of the Premiership clubs’ stadiums, has a superb sound and atmosphere.

Antonio - As I have said before, to visit one of the truly great theatres of world football will be a huge honour and I can not wait! I hope to meet some of the users on your forum for a couple of pints as well!! I can not wait to set eys on the "this is Anfield sign" I will be taking many many photo's.

12.  Care to forecast the scores in the two games between us?

Miguel - I expect a very boring and tactical game in Lisbon. Your defence and midfield are very strong but your attack is not, so you’ll not create many chances. We won’t create many chances either, your defence will destroy all our attacks so unless we get a nice free-kick for Simao I don’t see us scoring against you. Benfica will be under enormous pressure, we often find it difficult to play our best game at home where we are supposed to score or at least dominate the game, especially against defensive teams (the Man. Utd. game being the exception, but Liverpool has a different style of play). Rafa will be happy to get a draw here so that Liverpool can win the tie in Anfield. My prediction is 0-0.

Anfield, totally different game! You’re playing in front of your fans so you must attack and try to score as soon as possible. First 20 minutes will be extremely difficult for Benfica, you’ll probably make it 1-0, but you just wait until our speedy gonzalez Simao, Nelson, Leo, Geovanni and/or Miccoli start running along the line in lethal counter-attacks… I’m absolutely sure (I’ve even dreamt about it!) that we’ll score at least 1 goal in Anfield, and the final score will be 1-1 or 2-2.

Carlos - I rarely set my predictions right so I'd better say nothing...Even though I'll go for a 2-1 in the Luz and a 1-1 draw at Anfield.And there we go to the quarter-finals :)

Paulo -  Benfica 2 – 2 Liverpool
Liverpool 1 – 2 Benfica

Antonio - heheheh 3-1 to us in Lisbon and 1-1 in Liverpool (come on guys what did you expect me to say!!!) I expect a tight tight game

13. Who will win the Champions League this season?

Paulo -  Asides from Benfica, which may be an outsider, I really think Lyon is my favourite, they’re playin massive football.

Carlos - That's a difficult one...I'd go for one of these: Juventus,Chelsea or Barcelona.If I had to say just one it would be Juventus,a true football machine!I keep some expectation about Lyon's performance...They've been being the 'underdog' in Europe since Santini's era but this year they are stronger than ever and may be a serious candidate to win the CL.If Liverpool is able to beat Benfica they might go till the final unless they are paired with one of the 'Big Three'.I wish Liverpool the best luck for the season whether they eliminate Benfica or not ;)

Antonio - Benfica of course!! heheh my gut feeling since the beggining of this season has Benn Juve I watched them in pre season play us and they ae a MACHINE!!! but watch out for Barca! I f you do beat Us I will be cheering you guys all the way!!
Shaun a beer on u at Anfield!!!!!! Hope the above helps, send me a link to your web site, enjoy Lisbon great food, sites, drink and women!!! and I hope you enjoy the estadio da luz ..before we beat you!! heheh
all the best for the premiership!!
may the best team win and I hope this is a start of a great friendship between our two clubs!!!

So, there you are.  An overview of a fascinating European Cup tie, and a contest which has me, for one, nervously tingling in anticipation.   A match-up between two of Europe's truly mammoth football clubs.  At two of the most atmospheric venues in world football.

A word of warning to any of our supporters who are expecting a comfortable passage for the Redmen from Merseyside.  Prepare to be disappointed.  To those of us looking forward to a hard-fought encounter in two nail-biting, adrenaline fuelled struggles..... enjoy the ride.  Come on you Mighty Reds!! 

Once again,  grateful thanks to Miguel, Antonio, Paulo and Carlos.     See you lads in Rossio Square!    YNWA.

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