Fabio Barreiros didn’t think he’d be writing a quarter-final piece for us. But with his side making it through to a quarter-final date with Liverpool, our Benfica Champions Journalist fan reporter is really enjoying the ride
Before the group stage kicked off, I was very sceptical about this Benfica side, given that last season a huge amount (by our standards) was invested in the squad and we failed to produce in the Champions League play-offs. This season we managed to get over the line in the play-offs and our team finally gelled. Now we’re here in the quarter-finals and, dare I say it, one of the best eight teams in Europe.
We were given an outside chance in the group stage; when the groups were drawn, many of my friends messaged me instantly on social media with: “Welcome to the Europa League.” However, I always knew Benfica had the potential to progress, given Barcelona’s rare state of fragility. Despite overcoming them, we were still being highly underestimated, which I must admit left me quite bewildered. I mean, when was the last time Barcelona were sent home packing in a group stage?
Once we got through to the knockouts, emotions were running high among Benfiquistas; this season has given me feelings of pure nostalgia. My first Champions League memory with Benfica is our run to the quarter-final run in 2005/06 – when, coincidently, we also drew (and eliminated) holders Liverpool, though then it was in the round of 16. Fingers crossed history repeats itself when it comes to the result.
But let’s leave past glories behind us. More importantly, the most memorable Champions league moment so far for me this season was watching the second leg against Ajax in De Hems Dutch Bar in London’s Chinatown. A Dutch pub in Chinatown? I know, weird – but one of the many reasons why I adore this city. And in case you’re wondering: yes, I did contain my celebrations, saving my shouts until I had power-walked about 20 yards from the Ajax fans pouring out of the pub in complete disbelief at full-time.
I have been daring to contemplate a long Champions League campaign since the third-minute Darwin Nuñez goal against Barcelona on Matchday 2. It gave the Benfica nation hope, sparking a light inside us with a force of a thousand suns. We have been in a lucid dream since then; hopefully we’ll wake up clinching our third European title.
I would like to leave a final note, based on the small chance that a Benfica player will read this article. You are five matches away from making history, so roll the dice five times and maybe, just maybe, we’ll hit the jackpot. E pluribus unum!