Video: Why Benfica need this star to shine at Stamford Bridge
12:00 04 April 2012
Pablo Aimar will be one of Benfica’s key players when they face Chelsea tonight
The stats read in Chelsea’s favour ahead of their home Champions League quarter final second leg against Benfica on Wednesday.
Having scored the crucial away goal via Salomon Kalou in Lisbon, the Blues have won every home game in the European cup this season. They are also looking for their fifth win in a row against continental opposition.
If the Portugese side are to come away with anything from the game, they surely have to look to talismanic Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar to produce one of the best games of his career at Stamford Bridge.
Sir Alex Ferguson said before Manchester United’s clash with Benfica in the group stages back in November that “Aimar is the only player I fear.” On his day he can single-handedly win games, providing the crucial link up between midfield and attack and roam behind the strikers, setting up others with flair and panache or making intelligent runs to get on the end of through balls and finish clinically.
In the first leg, Aimar was marshalled well by John Obi Mikel who has been rejuvenated under Roberto Di Matteo, yet Benfica will have nothing to lose, knowing the only way to claw themselves back into the tie is by releasing the shackles and attacking fearlessly.
Being away from home may be an advantage as they will not have the pressure of their supporters on their backs and may even be spurred on by Chelsea supporters who so desperately want Champions League success.
With former Benfica man David Luiz injured, the Chelsea defence have lost a considerable amount of pace that would have been required to halt Aimar’s quick feet and intelligent off the ball work.
Midfielder Frank Lampard has been employed in a more reserved role under the new Chelsea manager which he not quite accustomed to. If he instinctively bombs forward, then Aimar can exploit the gaps left in front of the back four on the counter attack.
The playmaker’s finishing is second to none, having scored nearly 100 career goals from midfield and is adept with both feet. He is also deadly from free-kicks so the Chelsea back line will have to try and avoid fouling Benfica players in and around the penalty area.
Aimar’s first instinct is to create goals, and the prolific Oscar Cardozo is perfect foil for his clever through balls. Alongside Nicolás Gaitán who has the joint most assists in this season’s competition, Benfica have more than enough to worry Chelsea at the Bridge.