Ramires demands full focus
Chelsea will not prematurely consider a UEFA Champions League semi-final showdown with Barcelona, according to Ramires.
Last Updated: 03/04/12 10:48pm
Chelsea will not prematurely consider a UEFA Champions League semi-final showdown with Barcelona ahead of their meeting with Benfica, according to Ramires.
The Blues are odds-on favourites to set up a mouthwatering last-four clash with Pep Guardiola's defending European champions after winning last Tuesday's first leg 1-0 in Lisbon.
But midfielder Ramires, who joined Chelsea from Benfica almost two years ago, insisted he and his team-mates were looking no further than Wednesday's match.
"There's a lot of talk already about Barcelona, but we, as players, don't look that far ahead," said the 25-year-old. "We're concentrating on every game as it comes.
"We respect Benfica - a massive club with a lot of tradition - so there'll be no talk about Barcelona in the changing room.
"There will be if we manage to progress but, at the moment, we're just concentrating on this game."
He added: "We've got an important advantage from the first game, for sure, but we'll face a serious challenge in this match with 90 minutes ahead of us.
"When you're playing Benfica, you know it'll be tough. They'll be motivated and will do everything to win, despite their disadvantage from the first leg."
Last Tuesday's game was Ramires' first against one of his ex-teams and he said: "I'd never previously played against one of my former clubs, so it was a strange feeling.
"The fans showed me a lot of love over there, but I'm now a Chelsea player and I want to do everything I can to beat Benfica."
Chelsea rescued not only their own European season but also the reputation of the Premier League when they reached the quarter-finals three weeks ago.
Asked about flying the flag for English football in the Champions League, Ramires said: "We don't feel any particular pressure in the dressing room.
"Sure, we're the last English club left in it, but we'll do our best to try and stay in the competition for the fans."
That looked impossible before Andre Villas-Boas' sacking as manager a month ago.
Ramires was reportedly one of the Portuguese's acolytes but even he has been won over by caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo.
He said: "We went through a tough period, obviously, and have taken strength from this change in the coach, found new confidence after the change, feeling more respect in ourselves.
"Roberto has instilled great confidence in us, and we began to realise we are a great team, with great players, and have built from our first victory - in his first game - and gone from strength to strength."