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After losing 2-0 at Olympique Lyonnais it is fast approaching all-or-nothing time for SL Benfica when the teams meet again in Lisbon on Tuesday but Maxi Pereira says the home side "do not feel any extra pressure".
Benfica lie third in UEFA Champions League Group B, three points behind FC Schalke 04 and six adrift of Lyon, after away defeats by both those sides. It is a time for brave hearts but in Uruguayan defender Pereira, Benfica have a man with just those qualities.
He proved that last season with goals in both legs of their dramatic UEFA Europa League round of 16 elimination of Olympique de Marseille, though it is the result, not personal glory, that the 26-year-old is after. "Those goals are not important now, what we really want is to win tomorrow," Pereira said. "If I score, even better, but what matters now is that the teams wins. We don't feel any extra pressure; we all know what is at stake. We are playing at home in front of our fans against a big team like the [Marseille] match."
The right-back, a key player in Uruguay's run to the FIFA World Cup semi-finals, has worked his way back into the Benfica lineup, having been a substitute in the opening 2-0 defeat of Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC. He relishes these occasions. "
Pressure in these matches is always high, but we are fit, calm and ready to grab the three points," he said. "You could say we are favourites because we are at home, where we are always strong. But it will be a tight match between two big teams, so we cannot speak about favourites. I don't think about it. It will be 50-50 for each side."
Lyon have several key players missing and others doubtful, but that is not distracting Pereira. "We don't think in terms of who is going to play but about what we can do as a team," he said. "If an important player is missing, another will perform like him or even better. Our role is to work and think that we can put on a good performance."
Among those in doubt for Lyon is Pereira's potential direct opponent, left winger Michel Bastos, but he expects to be fit despite a thigh problem. "I feel better, I can do all my moves with no pain, I still have 24 hours before the match, so I expect to play," the Brazilian international said. "
Benfica are favourites because they are at home, they showed their quality in Lyon. When we play at this high level it's normal to have injuries, so I don't agree that physically we are breaking down."
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