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SL Benfica's Argentinian international duo Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola claim a near-telepathic connection on the pitch which they hope to put to good use in Wednesday's vital trip to Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC.
A thrilling 4-3 win against UEFA Champions League Group B leaders Olympique Lyonnais on Matchday 4 – in which Benfica were four up before a late rally by the visitors – has moved the Eagles to within three points of the French side and one behind second-placed FC Schalke 04. Victories in Israel and at home to Schalke on 7 December could now take Benfica into the last 16 for the first time in five years.
"We were getting concerned but the home game against Lyon revitalised us," forward Saviola said. "Hapoel are next and now the group is really open so it is a massive match.
We are lucky that things are in our hands again. However, we are playing a team that surprised us even though we won [2-0 in Lisbon in September]. They surprised us with how they played in possession as a team, they have very skilful players. Teams play differently home and away but they will be very tough in Tel Aviv."
Playmaker Aimar, back from the gastroenteritis that sidelined him against Lyon, arrived at Benfica a year before Saviola in 2008 and knows just how hard it can be for sides from outside Europe's biggest leagues to make the UEFA Champions League knockout phase. The summer departures of Ángel Di María and Ramires, for example, hardly helped the Benfica cause.
"The club finds itself in the same situation every year as teams from bigger leagues are looking for youngsters who are doing well," the 31-year-old Aimar said. "It is good for those players to try other leagues to see if they can play in countries that may be more competitive than the Portuguese league. That makes it difficult for a Portuguese team to win the Champions League but we are one of the 32 teams involved and someone has to win it."
When Saviola, 28, joined Benfica in 2009 it revived a club partnership with his compatriot that had thrived at CA River Plate before Aimar's January 2001 transfer to Valencia CF. Saviola said: "I have never played with another player who knows where I'm going to be or just lifts his head knowing where I'm going to."
Aimar agreed: "
We always see the same things, he's always moving where I thought he would go and I think the same happens for him. That is why we have an understanding of each other and that is why we really like to play together. We enjoy being on the same pitch."
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