'Frustrating' is the clear description of Benfica's roller-coaster season so far. Watching rivals FC Porto lift the title in their very own Estadio da Luz must have been as painful as seeing Porto once against blow Benfica's hopes for silverware in the Portugal cup after Andre Villas-Boas men defeated them. But the quest for a trophy has not been concluded yet for this season with Benfica still in a strong position for a Europa League final spot.
But standing in their way is Sporting Braga. Frankly speaking, Braga proved to be more than just an ordinary opponents during the first leg at Benfica last week and while Benfica do have a very slender lead, it remains to be seen whether they will be able to finish the job at Braga tonight. Especially when even Braga's manager Domingos Paciência called it as the biggest match in their history.
Despite Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon being regarded as traditional heavyweights in Portuguese football, Sporting Braga have risen to prominence in the last year or so and with tonight's game marking only their 18th match in Europe, Paciência insisted it is almost time for the Minho Warriors to win big.
"We cannot be happy until we are winning things. We have shown great heart to get this far, but we believe we can reach the final. There will be no stress and we won't make the same mistakes. It will be a completely different dynamic from a league game and the first-leg result gives us real hope in front of our fans."
While the Braga squad is full of talented and hungry players, one element of Benfica's team could be the determining factor after all. Javier Saviola has previously won the competition in 2006, when he was on a season-long loan at Sevilla and he revealed it as the inspiring factor that will drive him on tonight.
"I had the chance to win the UEFA Cup with Sevilla. That was a unique feeling because these competitions are important for clubs and for the prestige of everyone.
"When I played for Sevilla I experienced it in a special way. People were very happy, and they experienced it in a very special way, too. I won a UEFA Cup, and hopefully we can win it again with Benfica, so we can make the people very happy."
But as far as Paciência is concerned, he believes that spirit in his team is at a super high level and stressed that his players will go out and give their all to win the game with the progress to Dublin being the only thing that matters in their season now.
"This will be a very intense match and we are ready. "I am very proud of this squad. We have a brilliant dressing room, great professionals who have been through a lot together, and for a team outside Portugal's big three [Benfica, Porto and Sporting Clube de Portugal] it is great to be in this position."
While Paciência was absolutely optimistic during the press conference, Benfica's Jorge Jesus prefered to be conservative about his team's chances by insisting that Braga are as good as the likes of Porto and Sporting Lisbon.
"We could not be more motivated. Our best qualities are in attack so we will go for a goal. I think Braga will be very-well organised at the back and will try to hit us on the break."
Anyhow, this remains probably the last chance for Benfica to salvage a below-par season so far. And considering that Porto are the likely opponents that either of these two will be facing in the final at Dublin, things really get heated up with Jorge Jesus and his players as they seek revenge for all their recent pain against Andre Villas-Boas' team.
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