"Representing Benfica isn't a trial, it has to be a joy," said coach Rui Vitória, who has brought plenty of pleasure by leading the Eagles to this season's quarter-finals.
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Having taken charge of Benfica last summer, Rui Vitória has steered the Eagles to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at the first attempt. His side take on Bayern München as they bid to reach the semis for the first time since the advent of the UEFA Champions League, and the 45-year-old is optimistic.
UEFA.com: What were your targets for this season?
Rui Vitória: Our focus was doing our best for this great club. There weren't many concrete aims of lifting this trophy or that; anyone who works for Benfica knows that the goal is to win every game and get stronger every day.
UEFA.com: What has pleased you most about the development of the team?
Rui Vitória: We knew it would be a tough season, but we also knew things would go in the right direction and we knew we would succeed. It makes me very proud to see young players coming through. The mix between the irreverence of youth and the experience of older players was very important. It makes me very happy to see that unity, and how happy the team is during matches. Representing Benfica isn't a trial, it has to be a joy.
UEFA.com: Your next challenge is to play Bayern in the quarter-finals, a team who have scored 25 goals in this season’s UEFA Champions League. How do you counter that?
Rui Vitória: Sometimes the only way to neutralise tougher opponents is to recognise their strengths, be aware that it will be a hard match, and understand that to achieve anything you have to go through difficulties and be ready for them. We go into this game knowing our opponents are candidates to win the Champions League, but we won't be backing down.
UEFA.com: Benfica have not made it beyond the quarter-finals since the UEFA Champions League came into existence. Can your team end that run?
Rui Vitória: We know we've done something the club have not been able to do recently [reaching the last eight]. Any team that make this stage won't say they don't want to win the competition. We will think about beating Bayern, regardless of how strong they are, but I am also proud to see this team, in a transitional phase, getting so far in the UEFA Champions League with such young players.
UEFA.com: What would it mean for you to be a European champion with Benfica?
Rui Vitória: There is still a long way to go until we're at the top of European football. In the past, Benfica were one of the big European clubs. Now, when economic differences [between Benfica and the very biggest clubs] are so much greater, things aren't as easy to achieve. But it's very gratifying when, for example, we visit Russia and we have so many fans travelling. So we're all over Europe – and hopefully in Germany too.
There are many stronger teams, in a sporting and a financial sense, but at this point in the competition you have to study, prepare and have the mindset to win. We have had that all along and it's what we will look to show in the quarter-final.