Benfica v Chelsea big match dossier: AVB exit answers Jesus' prayers
22:58 GMT, 26 March 2012
The sacking of Andre Villas-Boas may have saved Chelsea’s Euro campaign but Benfica coach Jorge Jesus cannot have been sad to see him leave. Last season, AVB’s Porto beat Jesus to the title by 21 points, winning home (5-0) and away (2-1), and knocked their fierce rivals out of the Portuguese Cup and Super Cup.
Sad to see him go: Benfica's manager Jorge Jesus says he was disappointed to hear of Andre Villas-Boas' sacking
So did Roberto phone a friend
Di Matteo was cagey when asked if he had been in touch with Villas-Boas for info on Chelsea’s quarter-final opponents or, indeed, if any help had been volunteered by the recently axed manager. Di Matteo’s research did, however, include a chat with Luciano Spalletti, whose Zenit St Petersburg team were beaten by Benfica in the last round.
Taking a call: Did Roberto Di Matteo phone AVB for tips on Benfica
Blues' trip to the light fantastic
Chelsea have taken the lead in all four away games in Europe this season but have won none of them. Benfica, meanwhile, have won 18 of 21 games in the Estadio da Luz this season and are 10 unbeaten in European home games. ‘The atmosphere will be similar to Napoli,’ said Di Matteo. ‘It will be very intimidating and the intensity will be high. They play a pressing game.’
Gaitan deal set to pay dividends
Nicolas Gaitan has the scouts beating a path to Benfica. Signed for 7.5m from Boca Juniors in 2010, he is partly owned by the Espirito Santo Financial Group, the main backers of the Benfica Stars Fund, set up to help the debt-laden club sign players, usually from South America. ESFG retain a share in the players, trusting values will soar if they succeed. Such arrangements are not allowed in England.
Hot property: Benfica's Nicolas Gaitan has been watched by a number of scouts
Ex-Trotter Rod is no plonker
After Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge, another starlet flourishing after life in Bolton is 21-year-old striker Rodrigo, who has established himself in the Benfica team, scoring eight in 17 League games this season. He is one of nine South Americans in Benfica’s likely team, although the Brazil-born starlet has represented Spain since Under-19 level.
Top Trotter: Rodrigo Lima benefited from his time at the Reebok Stadium
Friday the 13th could be lucky
Chelsea will enquire about the possibility of moving the FA Cup semi-final forward from Sunday, April 15 to Friday night if they beat Benfica. In the last four of the Champions League, the Blues would play either Barcelona or AC Milan, three days after their Wembley date against Spurs or Bolton. Liverpool’s semi-final against Everton or Sunderland will be played on Saturday April 14. The request is not expected to be successful.
Chelsea seeking national help
More clubs around Europe have moved their domestic games forward in preparation for big European ties this season. APOEL, Napoli, Milan and Benfica have all benefited. Interim boss Di Matteo (right) confirmed the club’s intention to pursue the idea and said: ‘It doesn’t help English teams in the Champions League. Benfica played Friday night, so did Napoli (ahead of the Chelsea game). Their leagues try to give them a lot of help and the best possible advantage. We are engaged on this matter.’