ESPN FC: The Champions League returns
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said his side’s motivation in this season’s Champions League was to prove they are “not a weak side”.
Benfica fell by the wayside at the group stage last season before embarking on a long run in the Europa League that was only ended in the final against Chelsea.
And with this season’s final set to be played at Benfica’s home ground, the Estadio da Luz, there is an expectation that Jesus and his charges will not fall at the same hurdle two years in a row.
But the 59-year-old Jesus said the club’s only driving force was the motivation to prove themselves against the best in Europe, starting with the visit of Belgium club Anderlecht.
“The idea of playing the final here makes us want to become stronger tomorrow, to start the tournament well, but the fact that the final is in our stadium does not increase our motivation,” he told reporters.
“Our motivation and responsibility is to be in Champions League and do well.
“It is important to win as we know from our experience that a side who scores 10 points could qualify. If we win tomorrow we'll be in a better position than last year [when they drew 0-0 at Celtic].
"If our opponents think Benfica is a weak team, let us see on pitch.
"I cannot agree with that and said that we can only prove we are not a weak side tomorrow.”
However, Benfica will begin this campaign not at full strength with Eduardo Salvio, Nicolas Gaitan and Silvio all missing through injury.
But Jesus is confident he has the squad to overcome the missing players.
“[Lazar] Markovic played two games in Serbia and against Pacos Ferreira he felt tired, but physically okay," he said. "Enzo Perez is also an excellent player, but he sometimes fails to maintain the high level for 90 minutes.
“The squad is made up of 25 players in order to overcome these situations. We have several solutions and as a coach I’m happy with the squad we have available.
"What we think is that we can advance from this even group; all the teams have the same chance of qualifying."