Vitoria expects difficult clash for Benfica against Bayern

The Portuguese trainer was grateful to Pep Guardiola after hearing his compliments for the defence, but is under no illusions over the challenge that awaits

Benfica coach Rui Vitoria insists his team believe they can beat Bayern Munich in their Champions League quarter-final, even though the Bundesliga champions are “on another level” tactically.

The Primeira Liga leaders go into the tie on a run of eight straight victories and have only been beaten once in their last 22 matches in all competitions.

Bayern are among the favourites to win the tournament and Vitoria conceded it will be “difficult” for his side in Tuesday’s first leg at the Allianz Arena.

“From a tactical point of view, Bayern are on another level. The style is almost second nature now,” Vitoria told the media in Benfica’s pre-match press conference. 

“They know how to adapt to every situation during a game. We need to stay focused and play as a team as much as possible.

“In the Champions League we are just taking it one game at a time – that has got us this far.

“We have no fears. We have analysed our opponents and they are a strong team, but we will give our all to get a good result here in Munich.

“I would like to win the game – I want to win every game – but I know how difficult it will be.

“We have belief. We will play with enthusiasm, with spirit and desire. And we want to enjoy it. I want my team to have fun.”

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola described Benfica’s defence as the “best back four in Europe” when he spoke to the media and Andre Almeida agrees with the Spaniard’s assessment.

“I think Guardiola is right. Our defence is strong,” the defender said. “The whole team has played well and we are not in the quarter-finals for nothing.

“I don’t think it is that important who are the favourites, both teams deserve to compete at this stage.”

Ferguson reveals how David de Gea got Manchester United over Neuer

The Old Trafford idol recalled the series of events that led him to take the Spaniard over the current Bayern Munich and Germany star, a decision he does not regret

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that David de Gea’s brilliant potential earned him a place at Manchester United, beating out fellow candidate Manuel Neuer. 

The former Schalke goalkeeper went on to move to Bayern Munich, and has lifted both the Champions League and World Cup so far in what has been a brilliant career.

But Ferguson admitted that he plumped for De Gea to replace the retiring Edwin Van der Sar on his goalkeeping coach’s advice, and has never regretted the decision. 

“Eric Steele had been scouting David de Gea for quite a while, but then Neuer came on the scene at Schalke. And I think Schalke would’ve been happy if we’d have gone and taken him,” Sir Alex said to Sky Sports.

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“So my problem was Eric, because he was adamant that we must take De Gea. I said ‘but Eric, the boy Neuer is the complete unit; he’s mature, his physique is unbelievable’, and he says ‘yeah, but in three years’ time, De Gea will be better’.

 “I said ‘that’s a statement’.”

According to the Old Trafford legend, one visit to see De Gea star for Atletico Madrid was enough to convince him. 

“Eric and I went out to watch him (De Gea) against Valencia away, and the things he’d been speaking about – his agility, his confidence, his speed – were evident,” he recalled.

“And Eric had been building a relationship with his parents, and was so adamant, that I had to trust him – and I’m glad I did, because he was right.”

Guardiola preparing to face the 'best back four in Europe' against Benfica

The Bundesliga champions welcome Rui Vitoria’s side to Allianz Arena on Tuesday and the Spaniard has warned his side they face a tough task breaking down the visitors

Pep Guardiola believes Bayern Munich will come up against the “best back four in Europe” when Bayern Munich take on Benfica in the Champions League.

Bayern’s Allianz Arena will play host to the first leg of the quarter-final tie, with Guardiola hoping to bow out at the Bavarian club with European success before taking the manager’s job at Manchester City.

Standing between Bayern and a fifth consecutive semi-final outing is Benfica, who top the Primeira Liga by five points from Lisbon rivals Sporting CP after a 5-1 win over Braga on Friday.

Benfica’s attack, led by 32-goal striker Jonas, has struck 76 times in just 28 league games this season – 20 more than Sporting – with another 13 goals coming in eight Champions League fixtures.

But Guardiola’s focus will not be drawn to that well-oiled attack, and he told a pre-match news conference: “I’m impressed with the condition of Benfica.

“They possibly have the best back four in Europe, so it will be an interesting game.

“They are not a defensive team though, they defend very high up the pitch.

“We have two games to reach the semi-finals and we want to focus on our own game, of course a victory is better for us than a defeat.

“For Bayern it’s all about being the best, but it will be a very even match with Benfica, they have had a very good season.”

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When asked about his determination to leave Bayern with the treble, Guardiola added: “Everyone at Bayern wants to win the treble, but it’s the same in Barcelona and Madrid also.

“I realise that my job is not fulfilled in your eyes if we do not win three titles. If that happens, I have to live with it, but I will know I have given everything.

“Bayern is the best club in the world, but has only won the treble once.”

Prior to his manager lauding the Benfica defence, Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was perhaps understandably keener to discuss the merits of the strikeforce he will be tasked with keeping out.

Jonas has scored an incredible 30 goals in 28 league appearances this term, and Neuer said: “We expect Benfica to be desperate to score a goal. Jonas and [Kostas] Mitroglou are a fire hazard inside the box!”

Bayern will not play Lewandowski contract games, says Rummmenigge

The Poland international has been linked with a move to Real Madrid but the chairman of the Bundesliga champions says he is relaxed about his star striker’s future

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is confident Robert Lewandowski’s long-term future lies at Bayern Munich and refuses to be drawn on speculation the Poland international could be on the move.

Recent reports suggest the prolific attacker is close to signing a contract renewal, but Cezary Kucharski – one of Lewandowski’s representatives – has previously claimed Real Madrid are interested in signing the striker.

Bayern have no interest in playing games, though, and remain confident the 27-year-old will stay put.

“I am not commenting on Lewandowski’s potential renewal,” club chief executive Rummenigge told Kicker.

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“We are not joining his agent [in playing] games.

“Taking a look at his contract length gives us reasons to be relaxed about the future.”

Lewandowski’s deal with Bayern runs until June 2019.

The striker has been in superb form for the Bundesliga champions this campaign, scoring 36 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions.