Juan Mata has expressed his excitement ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
A win in Lisbon would take Jose Mourinho’s men to within one point of the magical double figures normally needed to qualify from the group stages and cement their place at the top of Group A.
Benfica, on the other hand, simply need three points to preserve any hopes of moving to the next round after succumbing to a home defeat to CSKA Moscow alongside suffering a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of FC Basel.
And Mata, writing in his weekly blog, noted that the circumstances surrounding the clash could culminate in an entertaining affair at the Estadio de Luz.
“On Wednesday we visit the Estadio da Luz in the third game of the group stage,” he wrote.
“We are looking forward to extending the good streak after getting six valuable points in the first two matches.
“Personally, Benfica brings me good memories. I played against them in 2012 in the Champions League quarter-finals and that season I was lucky to win the title with Chelsea. The following year, 2013, we also played them in the final of the Europa League, at the Amsterdam Arena, and we won.
“Despite these good memories I don’t want to be overconfident. They are a team with very good players and a big supporting crowd.
“They need the points and we will have to be at our best in order to get a positive result. At the end this is the Champions League and you have to beat great teams if you want to reach far.”
Benfica were touted as United’s biggest threat in Group A but their campaign still hasn’t properly kicked into gear as of yet.
They lie in third spot and, worryingly, closer to seventh spot than first having drawn two and lost one in Primeira Liga. Filling the gaps left by Victor Lindelof, Ederson, Nelson Semedo and Konstantinos Mitroglou is proving to be difficult for manager Rui Vitoria, who will also be without the suspended André Almeida for Wednesday’s clash.
But Portuguese champions have one precious card up their sleeve: a sense of ‘all or nothing’. A tepid draw won’t suffice under any circumstances, so they have the license to throw everything at United, and Mourinho will have to prepare carefully for an early onslaught in Portugal.