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Gio bows to Benfica spirit

Published: Tuesday 28 March 2006, 11.54CET
In an exclusive diary, FC Barcelona defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst weighs up his side's next UEFA Champions League opponents, SL Benfica.
by Giovanni van Bronckhorst
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Published: Tuesday 28 March 2006, 11.54CET

Gio bows to Benfica spirit

In an exclusive diary, FC Barcelona defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst weighs up his side's next UEFA Champions League opponents, SL Benfica.

Netherlands defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst shares his thoughts on FC Barcelona's UEFA Champions League quarter-final against SL Benfica with

When the draw was made and we found ourselves against Benfica, there was no way we saw it as an easy match. Benfica might not be favourites to lift the trophy, but the term 'favourites' means nothing in the UEFA Champions League. This is a fantastic tournament that throws up surprises. How many people were betting on Liverpool FC at the start of last year's competition or FC Porto the year before? Certainly, once you get past the initial stages of the tournament there are only very good sides left, any of which could win it. Everybody is in the last 16 by right.

Big occasions
Benfica have a great history of European success and they have shown this season that they are more than capable of adding to that roll of honour. They really rise to a challenge, turning on the performances when they were needed against the bigger teams like Manchester United FC and defending champions Liverpool. They are good going forward and I have been impressed by their attackers like Mantorras, Simão and Fabrizio Miccoli. You have to be impressed by the fact they scored three times against a Liverpool defence that gives so little away. Obviously we are going to have to keep it tight at the back and ensure they can create few chances.

Former team-mates
With Ronald Koeman in charge, you can be sure they are well-drilled in defence and he will have given the team a great spirit. He is a very good coach and obviously there will be a lot of friendly rivalry between him and his old team-mate Frank Rijkaard. We've had to make a few adjustments to our squad as we have injuries to Rafael Márquez, Edmílson, Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernández while Carles Puyol is suspended. However, everyone who has been included is an experienced Barcelona player and they know what to do. The only fairly new face is the defender Rodri who is taking Puyol's place, but he has been in the last three first-team squads and has shown great promise as captain of Barça B.

Useful experience
We have gained a lot of valuable European experience over the last couple of years and we know the important thing is to bear in mind that the match lasts 180 minutes. We're pleased that the first leg is away from home as that means it will be decided in front of our own fans at the Camp Nou. Away from home, we know we have to defend really well but also that an away goal is vital. We have to be positive and win the midfield battle. If we can do that, I think we have a very good chance of getting the result we want to take back to Barcelona.

Home finale
There is a lot at stake but I'm sure we will have a good game because both sides can play attractive football and want to win in the right way. We've been developing well over the last couple of years but have to prove ourselves in every game. We want to go to the final and Benfica are now in our way.

Last updated: 28/03/06 13.48CET

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