Málaga CF must overturn a 1-0 deficit at home to FC Porto on Wednesday to take their maiden UEFA Champions League campaign into the quarter-finals.
They will sorely miss winger Eliseu, brilliant in the group stage but ruled out of both legs of Málaga's round of 16 tie because of a knee injury. He talks UEFA.com and Champions Matchday magazine through his preparations for a big game like Wednesday's Porto decider and reflects on Málaga's success so far.
"When I wake up on the morning of a big game, I'm already thinking about hearing the Champions League anthem," said the 29-year-old Portuguese international. "It's a very special feeling seeing the stadium with all the fans there, listening to the anthem. Hopefully we can have that feeling for much longer this season and for many more years to come.
"We have chats and discussions about our opponents beforehand," continued the left-sided player, who scored three group stage goals. "Some players visualise the game, concentrate and imagine playing in it. I don't do that – I like to be relaxed and try to disconnect as much as possible. Later, I'm fully focused. You know you're playing an important game, so you have to be ready, psychologically and physically. I don't do anything special before going out on the pitch – I just go and play.
"It is a motivation to play against a great team like Porto. It will be a difficult game for both sides. We want to continue writing history with Málaga, so we are going for it completely. Porto are in the Champions League nearly every year and regularly reach at least the last 16. They're an experienced team, but we have to be confident, work hard and believe we can win.
"We qualified from a very difficult group, with Anderlecht, Zenit St Petersburg and Milan. No one thought we had a chance of reaching the knockout stage, but our coach Manuel Pellegrini told us we had to compete, fight and try our best to qualify. The togetherness of the group has been fundamental to us getting this far, and the coach has given us great support and motivation. The moment we knew we had made the last 16 was the best moment in my career so far."
This is a piece from the current edition of Champions Matchday, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League, available in digital versions on Apple Newsstand or Zinio, as well as in print. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.
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