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After suffering semi-final disappointment in Uruguay colours at the FIFA World Cup, Maxi Pereira is determined not to miss out again as SL Benfica take on SC Braga over two legs for a UEFA Europa League final place.
A Portuguese League Cup success against FC Paços de Ferreira at the weekend may not have made up for the loss to the Netherlands in Cape Town – Maxi Pereira's added-time goal not enough to prevent a 3-2 defeat – but glory in Dublin next month would certainly go a long way towards easing the pain.
"It was important to win the League Cup," said Maxi Pereira. "Finals are there to be won and it's given us confidence and relaxed us. We now have a chance to reach a [European] final after so long, and are well motivated and ready. After missing out on the World Cup final for Uruguay, I now hope to achieve the target."
The South American is part of a defence that has not kept a clean sheet since February, yet he remains confident that the Eagles will eclipse their domestic rivals. "The whole team is very calm and we don't think about the goals we've conceded," he said. "
We have to play our own game and I believe that out of the four teams left in contention we're favourites to win the competition."
A bold statement, perhaps, although Maxi Pereira knows Braga cannot be taken lightly. "If they are here at this stage then they have to be strong," he continued. "They have a good defence and we'll have to play intelligently to open them up, but our goal is to win the Europa League; it would be fantastic for everyone."
Braga centre-back Paulão believes the tie is difficult to call – "There are no favourites" – and says the northern club are "focused only on getting a result" in Lisbon. "It's not the game of our lives but it's certainly an important match. Benfica are always a tough team who fights for titles and they'll also want to perform tomorrow."
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