|Attempts on target||37||46|
|Attempts off target||49||47|
|F||Man. United||Sporting CP|
Midfielder Rui Costa says his young SL Benfica side are relishing the opportunity to show the progress they are making on the highest stage when they entertain UEFA Champions League holders AC Milan.
According to the 35-year-old, Benfica's good form in the Portuguese Liga makes them ready to haul themselves back into Group D contention. "We need to play at the level we're reaching in the domestic championship," he said. Saturday's 3-1 win at A. Académica de Coimbra was the Lisbon club's fifth in a row in the Liga, and they have no intention of changing their approach against Milan. "We're not going to be negative," Rui Costa stressed. "It's a very high level of competition, but our sole objective is to win."
Having spent five seasons with the Rossoneri, Rui Costa enjoyed rapturous applause from home supporters when he returned to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Matchday 1. Benfica's ensuing 2-1 defeat by Milan underlines the size of the task facing his team if they are to take anything from Wednesday's game. "Milan have very few weaknesses," he conceded. "They have been the best team in the Champions League over the last five years or so. They are an older group than us, with more experience. And we know they are very dangerous on the counterattack."
Benfica may have lost three of their four group matches yet their talismanic midfielder insists they can take heart from their performances. And with the gap to second place in Group D – currently shared by FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic FC – just three points, Benfica still have everything to play for. "We have a chance," Rui Costa said. "We played well at home to Celtic and won. And we did everything to win the game at Celtic [losing 1-0]. That was the best game we have played in the Champions League this season."
The problem then, reveals the former Portuguese international, has been a general failure in front of goal, particularly in the home defeat by Shakhtar on Matchday 2. "We have created a lot of chances in the games so far," he said. The theory is backed up by statistics – Benfica have had 37 shots wide so far, more than any other group-stage contestant. So the team will need all the help they can get from an expected full house at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, with 45,000 tickets sold by Monday. "We will try and contribute to the spectacle," Rui Costa promised.
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