Paulo Fonseca has not been in the head coach's job at FC Porto long, but he has quickly become immersed in the Estádio do Dragão's winning culture. "I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to defend the interests of Porto and my team," he told a press conference on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, his SL Benfica counterpart Jorge Jesus has already shown his own indomitable spirit – and that of his team – in deed this season, recovering from a deflating end to 2012/13 when the Portuguese Liga and UEFA Europa League titles slipped from their grasp in the dying moments of crucial deciders against Porto and Chelsea FC.
Benfica were a goal down going into added time of their match against Gil Vicente FC last month, yet struck twice in a minute through Lazar Marković and Lima to secure the three points. The Eagles have since made a convincing return to UEFA Champions League action, with a comfortable 2-0 Group C win against RSC Anderlecht.
While Porto were triumphant in the domestic tussle last term, they were hugely disappointed to be eliminated by Málaga CF in the UEFA Champions League round of 16. As Deco explained to Brazilian channel Sportv this week, he feels his old club could have won "at least one more Champions [League]" since he scored in their victorious 2004 final against AS Monaco FC.
For these twin giants of Portuguese football, nothing less than the best is good enough. A reminder of that sense of belonging among the elite came on matchday one when Porto captain Lucho González scored the winner at FK Austria Wien. It was the ninth successive campaign that he had found the net in the UEFA Champions League and his strike came in the city where Porto won their first European Champion Clubs' Cup, in 1987 against FC Bayern München.
Neither Fonseca nor Jesus need any reminding that their teams' fans – and Portugal as a nation – expect both sides to contribute heavily to this season's spectacle in Europe's premier club competition.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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