Champions League quarter final: first leg
Benfica and Barcelona meet in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, but for the respective coaches, it is a case of friends reunited as the former Dutch masters come face-to-face.
Ronald Koeman leads Benfica while his former national-team colleague Frank Rijkaard coaches the visitors.
But despite the links Koeman is playing down the significance of the Dutch reunion.
“It’s nice, but we do not play, it is the players that will have to win,” he said.
“I think we have our own characters,” Koeman added. “We did learn together. I think he’s doing a great job at Barcelona.”
Rijkaard himself said: “We have played together many times for the national team, but we know how to separate work from friendship.”
Koeman has two key selection dilemmas. Leading scorer Nuno Gomes is suspended after a booking in the 2-0 win that eliminated holders Liverpool.
“Of course we will miss him because he is the top scorer of the team,” admitted Koeman. “But we have other players that can score as we saw against Liverpool.”
Fabrizio Miccoli replaced Nuno Gomes at Anfield, but has had recent fitness problems. Though Miccoli should be available, Geovanni may get the nod.
In defence, right-back Alcides misses out with a knee injury. Nelson, who has been suffering from a groin strain, is expected to play tonight, although the left-sided Ricardo Rocha may switch flanks to play on the right.
Inevitable, World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho, has been identified as the man to stop tonight.
Koeman said of the Brazilian: “It is very difficult to stop him as he is a fantastic player.”
Rijkaard, meanwhile, is without captain Carles Puyol through suspension, and fellow defenders Edmílson and Rafael Márquez though injury.
This could mean Oleguer Presas will pair up with 21-year-old Rodri, who only made his first competitive start on Saturday in the 0-0 draw at Malaga.
Also missing for Barcelona is Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, although with Henrik Larsson and Ludovic Giuly available, Rijkaard is not short of high quality attacking replacements.
Benfica captain Simao, who represented Barcelona between 1999 and 2001 is looking forward to facing his former club.
“It is a very special game for me because I will face my old team,” he said, before talking up his current side’s chances.
“Manchester United and Liverpool were favourites and we beat them. I am sure we will have a good match – we are confident like all the people who come to our stadium.”
Similarly, Barcelona’s naturalized Portuguese playmaker Deco, returns to his adopted homeland.
“I am so pleased to come back to Portugal,” he said.
“I came back two days early to enjoy being in Portugal again.”