Benfica meet Manchester United tonight in what promises to be the most intriguing encounter of the evening.
Just two points separate Group D’s four sides going into Matchday 6 and victory for either Benfica or United in Lisbon will secure their place in the knockout rounds at the other’s expense.
Benfica’s cause has not been helped by an injury crisis which deprives coach Ronald Koeman of captain Simão, Fabrizio Miccoli, Manuel Fernandes, Giorgios Karagounis and José Moreira.
But Koeman is refusing to be distracted by his depleted squad.
“The injuries have obviously reduced my options,” he said, “but it’s far more important to prepare well than to dwell on players that are unavailable.”
“The match is going to be very tough for both teams,” Koeman added.
“All four sides in the group have a chance to qualify. We started as underdogs but we’re still here fighting.”
An understrength United side won the reverse fixture between the sides 2-1, but Koeman is wary of the threat a stronger line-up poses.
“United are at full strength this time,” he said. “Last time they weren’t and they still won so it’s difficult to say what will happen.”
United’s veteran boss Sir Alex Ferguson was in bullish mood ahead of the game.
“We need to win this game, nothing else matters,” he said.
“It’ll be a difficult match and Benfica are a good team. It’s the last game before the next stage and crucial for both sides. Portugal is a footballing country with people that love football and that makes this a special game.”
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