Of all the four teams competing in Nyon, SL Benfica should be the least susceptible to travel sickness given their performances on the road this term. João Tralhão's men have won more away matches than any other side, making it four in a row with a hard-fought 2-1 quarter-final success at Manchester City FC.
It was a victory which, according to Tralhão, underlined the strong collective spirit of a group who combine the typical technical qualities of Portuguese footballers with admirable resilience. Trailing at the break in England, they recovered to win through late strikes from Gonçalo Guedes and Estrela, and with the help of some superb saves by Thierry Graça. "The goalkeeper was fantastic but to pick out one player would be unfair on the whole team," said the coach. "Only a great team like ourselves – a team that worked hard, ran a lot and did what it had to do – could have beaten a super side like City."
It means Benfica have scored 70% of their UEFA Youth League goals in the second half of games. They had previously overturned another half-time deficit in the round of 16 against FK Austria Wien, scoring three times in the last 20 minutes to win 4-1. As against City, five-goal attacking midfielder Rochinha helped changed the contest as a substitute, showing Tralhão has impressive options on the bench.
Striker Guedes, with his tactical awareness and finishing instincts, and versatile forward Romário Baldé have also caught the eye in a team that topped Group C with four wins and two draws. Tralhão believes the demands of the UEFA Youth League have brought out the best in them. "This competition has made us play at the top of our abilities since September," he said. Now for one last push.
Leading marksman Rochina hit a hat-trick in the space of six minutes when Benfica came from two goals behind to win 6-3 at RSC Anderlecht in November.
Coach: João Tralhão
Date of birth: 03/09/1980
The 33-year-old is already an established figure in the coaching department at Benfica, where he has been on the back-room staff – working as both physio and assistant coach across the junior ranks – for over a decade. He has led the Under-19s since 2010/11 and counts his brother Luís among his assistants.
Benfica take pride in developing Portuguese talent in a youth section containing some 350 players, though the club of Eusébio retains supply lines from Portugal's former colonies, evident in the contributions of Graça, from Cape Verde, and Angolan Estrela.
Road to Nyon
Group stage: RSC Anderlecht 3-0 (h), Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 (a), Olympiacos FC 0-0 (h), Olympiacos FC 1-0 (a), RSC Anderlecht 6-3 (a), Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 (h) – Group C winners
Round of 16: FK Austria Wien 4-1 (h)
Quarter-finals: Manchester City FC 2-1 (a)
Top scorer: Rochinha 5
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