EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL

Benfica back in European spotlight 50 years on

Sleeping Portuguese giant has not won a continental trophy since beating Puskás’ Real Madrid

Madrid -
Benfica's players training in the Amsterdam Arena ahead of Wednesday night's final.
Benfica's players training in the Amsterdam Arena ahead of Wednesday night's final.OLAF KRAAK (EFE)

It has been 51 years since Benfica lifted the European Cup in Amsterdam's now-defunct Olympisch Stadium. Eusébio bagged twice in a 4-3 victory over Real Madrid, helping to cancel out a Ferenc Puskás hat-trick for the then-dominant force in Europe.

In the interim, Benfica - Portugal's most successful side both domestically and on the continent, having reached seven European Cup finals with two triumphs - has seen Porto bearing down in its rear-view mirror. The northern club beat Benfica 2-1 in the league on Saturday to take a one-point lead in the league, but in Wednesday night's Europa League final in Amsterdam, Jorge Jesus's side has the chance to seat Benfica at Europe's top table once more.

Standing in the way is the reigning Champions League victor Chelsea, which dropped down into the second-tier tournament after a woeful defense of its title under Roberto di Matteo. Interim manager Rafa Benítez is not a popular man at Stamford Bridge, but a European title will not look bad on his CV as he sets about finding another job in the summer.

"Chelsea are the favorites with a very balanced squad and with very expensive players, but in my opinion the technique of Benfica's players is a tad better," former Benfica coach Sven-Göran Eriksson, who coached some of Chelsea's players as England boss, told aBola. "Benfica's technique is very sharp. They control the ball well and play good football."

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