Schmidt stays grounded but Benfica deserve to be bullish

By Sports Desk March 07, 2023

Roger Schmidt is not getting ahead of himself though he says Benfica fully warrant being one of Europe's best eight teams.

Benfica sealed their place in the Champions League quarter-finals with a 5-1 thrashing of Club Brugge on Wednesday, capping a 7-1 aggregate victory.

Goncalo Ramos scored twice with Rafa Silva, David Neres and Joao Mario also netting - Bjorn Meijer grabbed a late consolation for Brugge, who have won only twice under Scott Parker since his appointment in December.

Joao Mario's successfully converted second-half penalty saw him become the first Benfica player since Eusebio to net in five successive Champions League/European Cup games.

Benfica have been one of the most impressive teams in this season's tournament, topping a group that also included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, though Schmidt remains grounded.

“We are among the top eight teams and we deserve it because we played like a great team," he told Eleven Sports.

"We are very happy to have reached this far, we will wait for the opponent that the draw dictates and we will do our best to reach the semi-finals. 

"We're going step by step, without thinking too far ahead, as we've been doing all season."

In his post-match press conference, Schmidt added: "These days we like to perform with excellence. We came in to win and play attacking football, not to defend the 2-0 lead. 

"We scored at the right times, we were smart, we controlled the ball and we accelerated at the right times."

Benfica have reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup/Champions League in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1967-68/1968-69, though this was the first time they have scored five goals in a knockout match in UEFA's flagship competition.

Indeed, Benfica are unbeaten in their last 13 European matches (including qualifiers), the joint-longest run for a Portuguese side.

Brugge, meanwhile, suffered their biggest margin of defeat on aggregate in a European knockout match, excluding qualifiers. The Belgian team had not conceded five goals away from home in a continental game since a 6-1 loss to Monaco in 1988.

Speculation over Parker's job security is mounting, and the former Fulham and Bournemouth boss knows his future is not in his own hands.

"You are asking the wrong person," he replied when asked if he would be staying put.

"For me, it's been challenging, but the players have been brilliant and wanting to do everything they can to turn this around.

"I understand people now doubt [me], I'm not naive. All I can say is that I'm trying to turn this around and create a team that will start winning again."

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