Portela: “Playing against Benfica is always special”
HBC Nantes right wing Pedro Portela knows what it means to play against SL Benfica.
The Portuguese international played 11 seasons for Sporting CP, with the derbies against their red-and-white domestic rivals among the highlights of each season.
Three years after swapping the Portuguese league for the French championship, Portela is set to meet Benfica once again – with Nantes in the standout tie of round 6 of the EHF European League Men 2021/22 group phase on Tuesday (live at EHFTV at 20:45 CET).
“Playing against Benfica was always special for being a great derby. Now this game is only special for being a Portuguese team,” Portela told eurohandball.com.
The right wing left Sporting in 2018 to join Tremblay-en-France. After three seasons, the 31-year-old has made the move to Nantes last summer.
Portela is aware of the strength of Tuesday’s opponents.
“SL Benfica created an excellent team this season, they have great quality players,” Portela said. “Their strengths are the solid defence that will create problems for us, and we will have to cancel their quick transitions and their front line, where I highlight Petar Djordjic.”
The Serbian left back has already scored 62 goals for Benfica this season, which include 25 goals from their two qualification rounds and group phase matches against Chekhovskie medvedi and Cocks with 11 and 12 goals, respectively.
I feel that I have grown a lot as a player in the French championship, I gained more maturity, experience and psychologically I became a stronger player.
Still, Portela heads into the game with confidence.
“We are aware of the difficulty that lies ahead, but we want to win at Arena XXL and we count on the incredible atmosphere of our fans,” the Portuguese international said.
Having played for Sporting since 2007, Portela left the Lions in 2018. The move to a stronger league has made him a better player.
“I feel that I have grown a lot as a player in this championship, I gained more maturity, experience and psychologically I became a stronger player. So far, I have a very positive assessment of what I have been doing,” he said.
Nantes go into round 6 of the group phase with seven points, one fewer than Benfica, who share the lead in group B with TBV Lemgo Lippe. GOG, on seven points, is the fourth team aiming for the top spot in this tight group.
For Portela, Nantes’ goal for the season is clear: “Our first objective is to reach the EHF Finals.”
A win over Benfica on Tuesday would only boost Nantes’ hopes of going all the way to the final tournament in the last weekend of May.