SL Benfica director Rui Costa said that the Portuguese team would not be losing any sleep over the prospect of facing Chelsea FC after today's UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw.
Chelsea have been one of the competition's most consistent forces in the past decade – this will be their seventh quarter-final appearance since 2004 – but Benfica have no reason to be daunted according to Rui Costa. He said it was no accident that the two-time winners had reached their first quarter-final since 2006 and praised Benfica for "an extraordinary competition" in which they have already helped eliminate one English team, Manchester United FC, in the group stage before beating FC Zenit St Petersburg in the last 16.
"We aren't here by chance," he told UEFA.com after the draw in Nyon. "It's not a surprise that we are here.
Chelsea are a big name in European football, who will be respected by Benfica, but we're not losing sleep – no opponent would cause us to lose sleep because while we have humility, we also know our potential. We know what we can do, and we believe that we can compete with any team until the end; and that's what we will do with Chelsea."
Benfica have lost six of their nine previous two-legged ties with English sides in the European Cup, but did prevail in the two most recent – against Liverpool FC in the 2005/06 round of 16 and Arsenal FC in the 1991/92 second round – as well as earning two draws with United this term. Rui Costa believes "both teams have the same possibilities of going through" and promised Chelsea a demanding contest.
"We are among the last eight teams in the Champions League, so you can’t expect easy opponents. Benfica will also not be an easy opponent for anyone: that I can guarantee," warned the former Portugal midfielder, now on Benfica's board.
For his part, Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea's interim first-team coach, knows all about Benfica's threat but is pleased that the second leg, on 4 April, will take place at Stamford Bridge. "I have seen Benfica many times as they were in a group with Manchester United.
It is a tough opponent for us but the fact that we are away from home first [on 27 March] is good because it is a bit like the Napoli game."
Whoever wins the tie will face either FC Barcelona or AC Milan in the semi-finals but Di Matteo added: "We will not look any further than the Benfica game and that is all we are going to focus on regardless of the fact that Barcelona could be next. You can speculate about who we might face if we progress but do not rule out AC Milan, they are top of Serie A."
Chelsea's only previous experience of Portuguese opposition came against FC Porto in this competition – six meetings yielding four victories and only one defeat. Yet there is one obvious connection with Benfica in the presence of Ramires and David Luiz, both signed from the Lisbon club. "It's a team which we know well," said Rui Costa. "We have some affection for David Luiz, for Ramires, who were our players until a short time ago."
He added that the Londoners were "in a good period" and after Chelsea's spectacular comeback against SSC Napoli earned him a third straight win since taking the reins, Di Matteo is hoping this will still be the case until they travel to Lisbon. "We have such an intense schedule but it is great to be in a position like this. Every win gives you a little bit of confidence."
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