FC Barcelona has faced SL Benfica in 3 separate seasons in the UEFA Champions League (twice under the European Cup label), all 3 times FC Barcelona has been in the final that year. In fact, the winner of this matchup has always gone to lift the trophy. The first one occurred in 1960/61, where the two sides met in the final hosted at Berne, where Barça was defeated 3-2 despite taking the early lead. As an interesting side note, this was the first European Cup final FC Barcelona had ever reached.
The sides next faced each other 30 years later in the 1991/2 season, where finally FC Barcelona won the trophy it so desperately craved but had seemingly forever eluded the club. But before the original “that” night in Wembley, Barça and Benfica met in the group stages. The sides drew 0-0 in Lisbon and then thanks to goals from Hristo Stoichkov and José Barkero, FC Barcelona was victorious at the Camp Nou.
In 2005/6, the quarter final was the stage and again after a 0-0 draw in Portugal, the sides returned to Spain and a 2-0 win, with goals from Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho, was enough to send the Catalan side to the semi-finals. Rijkaard’s side then edged AC Milan to meet Arsenal in Paris and lift the trophy for the 2nd time.
Benfica will therefore hope tonight for its first victory against Barça in 51 years. Their history against Spanish sides is similarly encouraging for Tito Vilanova. It has been 12 encounters since their last victory against a team from Spain, back in the 1982/83 UEFA Cup versus Real Betis. Barça on the other hand can be buoyed by recent matches against Portuguese outfits. In 2008/9 they triumphed against Benfica’s city rivals Sporting Lisbon 5-2 and in last year’s Super Cup a fantastic Cesc Fàbregas goal clinched a 2-0 victory against FC Porto. FC Barcelona win ratio in Portugal all time is 61%.
Image Credit: bbc.co.uk