History is likely to be made in Dublin on 18 May with the first all-Portuguese final of a European club competition – and SL Benfica's Fábio Coentrão is itching to be there.
Left-back cum left winger Coentrão is part of the Benfica side who take a 2-1 first-leg lead to SC Braga for the conclusion of their UEFA Europa League semi-final on Thursday, when FC Porto visit Villarreal CF with a four-goal advantage. If the job has been half-done by the Lisbon outfit, completing it will be far from straightforward according to Coentrão.
"Semi-finals are never easy matches – only good teams get to semis, and both Braga and ourselves have done really well to progress this far in the tournament," said the Portuguese international, ever-present as VfB Stuttgart, Paris Saint-Germain FC and PSV Eindhoven have been dispatched. "We know how good we can be and we also know that Braga are an excellent side, but only one side can go through and we have to make sure it is us going to the final."
To rubber-stamp their ticket, following the home victory earned last week by goals from Jardel and Óscar Cardozo, may require Jorge Jesus's men – who recently lifted the Portuguese League Cup – to play the game in northern Portugal as if the tie remains goalless. "Braga are tough opponents, even more so in a semi-final," continued the 23-year-old former Rio Ave FC prospect.
"However, the fact is we are in pole position having won the first leg and we need to repeat that in the second. This is the only competition we have left to play for and we are going to do our best. We have to treat the game as if it is 0-0."
If the contest were still poised as at the very first whistle, then Coentrão and company could rightly feel optimistic: they have won one and drawn two on their travels since they, like their Minho rivals, dropped into this competition from the UEFA Champions League group stage. Yet even with the narrow cushion they hold, they venture north in the knowledge that Braga beat them 2-1 at this venue in the Liga on 6 March.
"We have to get past Braga and, to do that, we will have to give absolutely everything," Coentrão added. "We want to deliver a performance – that is the wish of everyone in the dressing room. We are talking about a European semi-final here and all the players want to win this competition."
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