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After seeing their team win 18 of 21 home matches, SL Benfica fans have had it pretty good this season but now they can do their bit to help their favourites according to midfielder Pablo Aimar, who wants to hear the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica at its raucous best for the visit of Chelsea FC.
Speaking on the eve of Tuesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg, Aimar spoke of the "extra push" the Benfica supporters can give their team as he looked forward to a memorable night. "A
t home the supporters have been fundamental with the extra push they give us and tomorrow with a full stadium, it will be huge," he said. "Tomorrow's match will be special because of the competition, because of the name of the opponent, a big one, and a fantastic atmosphere."
Benfica are unbeaten in ten European home matches but Aimar knows a tough task awaits against a Chelsea side "improving" since the dismissal of their Portuguese coach, André Villas-Boas. "In the last matches they've been better." That said, he believes domestic form will count for nothing with a semi-final place at stake.
"These matches are different, as they are decided in 180 minutes, sometimes with extra time, so it doesn't matter how the team is performing during the season. What really matters is what they do here," he said.
"There are no favourites in this tie," added the Argentinian, a scorer against Manchester United FC in one of Benfica's two group-stage draws with the Premier League leaders. "I wouldn't be smart if I said here Chelsea's weaknesses. They are a big side; to be at this stage they need to be. They are a team with some of the world's best-known players, so they'll certainly be a great opponent."
Chelsea's squad includes two of Aimar's old team-mates, David Luiz and Ramires, who helped the Lisbon club win the Portuguese title in 2010. "
It was a pleasure to play with David Luiz and Ramires who are great friends," he said, although that friendship will count for nothing once the whistle has blown. "I hope this will be not a happy return for them."
Instead, after missing the 2-0 win against FC Zenit St Petersburg in the last round through suspension, he is hoping to make a happy return himself – and put behind him his sending-off in the goalless draw with SC Olhanense last Friday. Aimar had been on the field as a substitute for only 18 minutes when he received "my first direct red card in 15 years". That has passed now and against Chelsea, he added, "the team and I have to keep cool heads". While, if he gets his wish, the public in the stands are creating the hottest possible atmosphere.
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