Benfica on their brain

Benfica goalie Jose Moreira is in fine form during yesterday's practice at BMO Field, where tonight...

Benfica goalie Jose Moreira is in fine form during yesterday's practice at BMO Field, where tonight the visiting club team challenges MLS neophytes Toronto FC. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

Fernando Santos might not be thrilled with the synthetic grass that will greet his team tonight at BMO Field.

But it certainly appears there will be nothing fake about the starting lineup the coach of Portuguese powerhouse Benfica will field for the friendly against Toronto FC.

While a number of starters likely will be substituted quickly for the scrubs, Santos indicated to reporters last night that those regulars who practised yesterday will see action.

In other words, the 20,000 loonies who will jam the stadium should get the opportunity to watch skilled midfielder Rui Costa, the long-time Portuguese international who has represented his country 94 times over the years as a celebrated player.

Considered by some to be the best Portuguese playmaker in history, Costa -- often referred to as The Maestro -- was named by the legendary Pele as one of FIFA's top 125 greatest living players back in 2004.

Costa, 35, and his Benfica teammates recently completed a heartbreaking third-place season in the Portuguese Superliga, one in which they finished just two points behind champion Porto and one back of runner-up Sporting.

Now they are preparing for their exhibition match in Toronto, a city that features a rookie MLS team, a rabid Portuguese population and, of course, an artificial playing surface known as FieldTurf.

For the record, Santos did not want to comment when asked for his opinion on the makeup of the field.

While the game obviously does not count in the standings, players on Toronto FC are stoked.

"For a lot of us, this will be the biggest game we've played," defender Marco Reda said.

"(Benfica) is a top-notch international team."

As of yesterday afternoon, about 1,400 ducats -- many of the top-end variety -- remained available.


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