Porto coach Andre Villas Boas. Miguel Pereira / Demotix/Demotix/Press Association Images
Final Countdown

Europa League Preview: Porto, Benfica hope to take final step on the road to Dublin

The tournament’s four remaining teams do battle tonight for a place in the Aviva Stadium on May 18.

Sporting Braga vs. Benfica

How things stand: Benfica lead 2-1 after the first leg – but Braga do have that all-important away goal.

All of the goals came in a nine-minute flurry in last week’s first leg in Lisbon. Despite long periods of dominance in the first half, it took the hosts until the 51st minute to take the lead when Jardel poked home.

Vandinho grabbed an important away goal for the visitors just three minutes later before Oscar Cardozo rifled in a cracking free-kick shortly before the hour mark to give Benfica a slender advantage.

What to expect: Knowing that a single goal and a clean sheet will be enough to see them through to the Dublin decider, expect Braga to be quite patient and cautious going forward.

Benfica are the favourites but their opponents tonight have taken some big scalps, including that of Liverpool, in getting to this stage so don’t expect them to be any pushover.

They say:

We know what a positive result a victory is for them, but without doubt our goal has some weight. We’re conscious that we’ll have a difficult game at home against them, and that we need to score a goal, but we’re sure we have everything we need with all our fans behind us.

Leandro Salino, Braga midfielder

We have to get past Braga and, to do that, we will have to give absolutely everything. We want to deliver a performance – that is the wish of everyone in the dressing room. We are talking about a European semi-final here and all the players want to win this competition.

Fabio Contrerao, Benfica defender

Odds: Braga 9/4 to qualify; Benfica 1/3

Villarreal vs. Porto

How things stand: Porto all but booked their place in the final last week, dishing out a 5-1 thumping in the home leg.

Striker Falcao grabbed four for the Portuguese side, taking his tally in this year’s competition to 15 and undoubtedly pricking the attention of managers around Europe.

What to expect: This tie is dead. Villarreal will probably want to salvage some pride in front of their home fans so expect them to give it a bit of a go, but there’s no way that Porto won’t be in Dublin in two weeks’ time.

They say:

People think I am the next one but I am not the next one. I am a normal coach who benefits from having top players and one day I will not benefit from having this type of talent. I am not the Special One. Maybe, then, I will be The S**t One.

Andre Villas Boas, Porto coach

In football anything can happen and we must go out and create as many chances as we can. It will be very difficult, but we must just focus on scoring one goal at a time, not getting ahead of ourselves. The match is only over when the referee blows his whistle and Porto will not be relaxing: they will come out looking for the victory.

Nilmar, Villarreal striker

Odds: Porto 1/200 to qualify; Villarreal 20/1