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Benfica look to knock Celtic off their stride

Published: Monday 19 November 2012, 20.57CET
Jorge Jesus hopes a passionate Lisbon crowd can help SL Benfica unsettle Celtic FC, whose coach Neil Lennon has other ideas: "If we fail to qualify now it'd be a wasted opportunity."
by Carlos Machado
from Lisbon

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Published: Monday 19 November 2012, 20.57CET

Benfica look to knock Celtic off their stride

Jorge Jesus hopes a passionate Lisbon crowd can help SL Benfica unsettle Celtic FC, whose coach Neil Lennon has other ideas: "If we fail to qualify now it'd be a wasted opportunity."

Jorge Jesus hopes that SL Benfica's fans can emulate the Parkhead crowd and roar his team to a priceless victory against Celtic FC in UEFA Champions League Group G. That may prove easier said than done against Celtic, whose manager Neil Lennon is hoping his players will draw inspiration from visiting the scene of the club's greatest ever success – the 1967 European Champion Clubs' Cup final at the Estádio Nacional.

Benfica
Jorge Jesus, coach
Right now Celtic are in a better position to qualify than us and Spartak. Benfica can qualify but we need to beat Celtic. They are as strong at home as they are away, but a bit stronger in Glasgow due to that fantastic atmosphere. In Lisbon, they'll play in a stadium that is almost the same, where Benfica's fans really help us a lot. The Celtic fans sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and that's how it feels for us, because our fans make it easier for us.

I think their plan A will be to play a balanced defensive game, because a draw could see them qualify. I think it will be a 4-3-3 rather than a 4-4-2, but we are ready for whatever strategy they come up with. Celtic are strong in the air and scored twice against Barcelona that way. They'll sit back against us but not as deep as they did against Barcelona, because no one can play like them. They may try to take advantage of set pieces.

Celtic have been the surprise package in this group because, after they beat Barcelona, the whole group changed completely. Right now they are the team who, apart Barcelona, of course, have the best chance to qualify.

Weekend result
Friday: Moreirense FC 0-2 Benfica (Matić 59, Cardozo 90+3)
Lopes; Almeida, Luisão, Jardel, Luisinho; Matić, Bruno César (Gomes 90+1), Gaitán, Nolito (John 75); Rodrigo, Lima (Cardozo 73).

• Benfica won their fifth game in succession without conceding a goal. Nemanja Matić's strike was only his second in 42 games for the Eagles. 

Team news
On Friday, Luisão made his first appearance since 2 September following the end of his two-month suspension. Pablo Aimar is now the only player unavailable through injury.

Celtic
Neil Lennon, manager
The game against Barcelona was good, but there are two matches to go. I played here in 2007 and I know how it is. We have to be defensively at our best and attack when we can. If we fail to qualify now it would be a wasted opportunity. But the job is not yet done.

At home against Benfica, it was a bit of a tactical battle. Nemanja Matić has been very important for Benfica. The full-backs and centre-backs too. Melgarejo is fantastic. I know Lima well from the time we faced Braga. Also Óscar Cardozo is a terrific striker, but Benfica are not just about individuals, they are strong as a team and don't lose their identity when the coach changes some players. Luisão is very experienced; I played against him. He's always on his game and we know how important he is for Benfica.

Celtic won the 1967 European Cup here. We'll train at the Estádio Nacional so the players can experience part of the club's history.

Weekend result
Saturday: Aberdeen FC 0-2 Celtic (Lassad 73, Mulgrew 77)
Forster; Lustig, Ambrose, Wilson, Matthews; Kayal, Wanyama, Mulgrew, Commons (Lassad 69); Samaras (McGeouch 80), Watt.

• Charlie Mulgrew marked his 100th appearance for Celtic with a goal against one of his former clubs. The win was the Hoops' first in four league outings.

Team news
Celtic hope that Kris Commons, substituted on Saturday with a dead leg, should recover and be able to start along with Scott Brown, while Gary Hooper may be on the bench. James Forrest, Emilio Izaguirre and Thomas Rogne are definitely out.

Match fact
• Celtic's two previous passages to the UEFA Champions League last 16 came in those seasons where they shared a group with Benfica.

Last updated: 27/11/12 6.10CET

Related information

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http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2013/matches/round=2000347/match=2009565/prematch/preview/index.html#benfica+look+knock+celtic+their+stride

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