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Midfielder Javi García is backing his SL Benfica side to shine at the Stade Vélodrome on Thursday as he and his team-mates set out to spoil Olympique de Marseille's UEFA Europa League quarter-final ambitions.
Didier Deschamps's side left Lisbon cradling a 1-1 draw after the first leg last week, Hatem Ben Arfa's dramatic late equaliser handing them the initiative in the tie. Having been staring at a deficit to overturn, OM had suddenly earned themselves a precious result, and the goal that did it could hardly have come at a better time to dent opposition morale. Former Real Madrid CF ball-winner García has been urging his colleagues to focus on the bigger picture, though.
"They'll be playing at home with their supporters but we've travelled to many difficult stadiums this year and we've responded well on most occasions," he said, recalling Benfica's 2-0 win at Everton and the 2-1 success at FC BATE Borisov in the group stage, before their 1-1 stalemate at Hertha BSC Berlin in the round of 32 – not to mention their record of nine wins and three draws from 12 Liga outings on their travels.
"We've not just played well in those games; we've almost always scored in them as well. We'll do exactly the same as we did in those difficult away trips and we'll look to win the match and decide the tie." The 23-year-old will also be drawing strength from the Eagles' overall performance in their opening encounter with OM. "It was a pity we conceded at the end, but we were able to leave with our heads held high because we'd done a great job. There are 90 minutes left to play, so everything is yet to be decided."
Winger Ramires is looking forward to the return leg too, citing Benfica's scoring record as cause for optimism. Indeed, only 22-goal Werder Bremen boast more than their tally of 19 strikes so far in this season's competition proper. "Of course we can score over there," said Ramires. "We just have to stay calm and focus. We've played the first half and now the second half is coming up. We'll be very focused."
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