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Having watched Olympique Lyonnais's opening two Group B victories nursing a thigh injury on the sidelines, defender Cris is itching to get back in the thick of the action again as the French side look to make it three wins from three against SL Benfica.
"If we win, we'll have nine points and will almost be through to the knockout rounds," said the 33-year-old, who made his first appearance in two months in Sunday's 3-1 domestic success against LOSC Lille Métropole. "I was very happy to savour the atmosphere of a game again and was really focused. It was hard for me at the end because I haven't played for several weeks, but I'm recovering well."
The Brazilian centre-back hopes to have shaken off any lethargy in time for Wednesday's meeting with the Portuguese titleholders at the Stade de Gerland, where he is due to make his 50th appearance in the UEFA Champions League. "Benfica are a great team, with talented players," he said. "They are the best team in Portugal and, like us, struggled at the beginning of the season."
They also boast a strong South American component, including a pair of Brazilian stoppers of their own. "I played with Luisão at Cruzeiro EC and for the national team: he's really experienced and gifted," explained Cris. "And David Luiz is having a great season." The compatriot most likely to keep the Lyon veteran occupied is Alan Kardec, though, with the 21-year-old poised for his first start in the competition in place of the injured Óscar Cardozo. But while Cris admits Kardec "keeps well the ball" and is "dangerous in the air", he is not overly concerned.
After three successive wins we are confident at the moment. We know we could improve as a team and that's why we want to get a good result on Wednesday." Following victories over FC Schalke 04 and Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC, it would also leave Lyon six points clear of third place in Group B as they seek to reach the knockout stages for the eighth successive campaign.
In the opposition camp, Luisão was quick to share his own respect for Cris, though not without a light-hearted reference to their similarly bald pates. "
I've played with Cris many times and I'm his No1 fan," he said. "Have a look at my hairstyle; I've got the same one as him."
Joking aside, the 29-year-old is nonetheless anticipating a testing encounter as his team aim to bounce back from their 2-0 loss at Schalke last time out. "We know that Lyon are a good team and don't need to be told about their quality," he said. "They're right when they say they're favourites, but before kick-off both teams are level and anything can happen. We don't fear them but we respect them, and we know they play in the Champions League every year."
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