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Saturday 3 December 2016

Vitoria warns Bayern to write Benfica off at their peril

Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty
Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty

Benfica coach Rui Vitoria accepts his side will have to do it the hard way if they are to progress any further in the Champions League, but has warned quarter-final opponents Bayern Munich against writing them off.

Having reached at least the semi-final stage of the last four editions of the Champions League, winning it in 2013, Bayern are overwhelming favourites to see off the Portuguese league leaders and keep their hopes of a treble alive.

But while Vitoria is well aware of the task facing his team ahead of tonight's first leg in Munich, he insists they are not going to just roll over for the German giants.

"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," he said.

"We go into this game knowing our opponents are candidates to win the Champions League, but we won't be backing down."

While making the last four would be considered a huge achievement in Lisbon, falling at this stage would be deemed a failure for Pep Guardiola's Bayern.

They came close to elimination in the last round, beating Juventus only after extra-time with a stoppage-time Thomas Muller goal saving them from defeat, and they also went down 3-1 to another Portuguese side, Porto, a year ago.

"That should be enough of a warning for us," said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on his club's website.

"Just like before the Porto game, everybody was very optimistic and that made the criticism even greater after that game."

Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said: "We're the favourites and if we play to our ability, then we're going to go through," said.

Arjen Robben misses out due to injury, but Guardiola otherwise has no major injury concerns. Luisao is Benfica's only major absentee and he is set to miss out both home and away with a broken arm.

Bayern Munich v Benfica, live Setanta irl/bt sport 2 (ko 7.45)

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