11.04.2014 13:32 - in: Europa League S

    Spotlight on Benfica

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    The Bianconeri’s Europa League semi-final challengers are also currently out on top in their domestic league, and will be keen to win the European competition this season after losing last year’s final

    Juventus’ Europa League semi-final opponents are a formidable proposition, the most successful side in Portugal and narrow runners-up in  last year’s competition after a 2-1 loss to Chelsea.

    Founded in 1904, they hold the European record of consecutive victories in a domestic league (29 between 1971 and 1973), and have won the Portuguese championship a record 32 times. They are currently top of the Primeira Liga table, seven points clear of Lisbon rivals Sporting.

    Benfica have historically achieved great success in Europe, too, lifting two consecutive European Cups in 1961 and 1962 as well as falling just short in the final on five other occasions.

    The imposing symbol and mascot of the club is the eagle - the reason behind their nickname of  the ‘Aguias’ - and their red strip means they are also known as the ‘Encarnados’.

    They play their home games at the 65,647-capacity Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, the ground the Bianconeri will be visiting on 24 April and which will also host this season’s Champions League final.

    The most iconic player in Benfica’s history is arguably Eusebio, the club’s all-time top scorer and widely considered one of the greatest ever to grace the game.

    And the current squad has a particularly dangerous striker among its ranks, too: Oscar Cardozo. The Paraguayan has been regularly finding the net with Benfica since 2007, and scored 33 overall last season. Bianconeri fans will remember that he also put one past Marco Storari in a 2012 1-1 friendly draw with Juventus.

    Captain Luisao is also from South America, but he was born in Brazil and plies his trade at the other end of the pitch in defence.

    Turning to their European journey so far this season, Benfica joined the Europa League after cruelly finishing third behind Olympiakos on goal difference in the Champions League group won by Paris Saint-Germain.

    Starting in the Europa League as the Bianconeri did in the Round of 32, the Eagles have put out PAOK Salonicco, Tottenham and most recently AZ Alkmaar on the way to the semi-final.

    Their top scorers in the competition so far are Lima and Rodrigo, jointly holding the position on three goals, while Eduardo Salvio’s three assists make him their biggest creative provider.

    The manager who will be leading Benfica through their two-legged affair with Juventus is Jorge Jesus, following in the footsteps of former coaches including ex-Juve boss Giovanni Trapattoni, Jose Mourinho, Jupp Heynckes and Graeme Souness.

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