With FC Girondins de Bordeaux lying in mid-table in Ligue 1, SL Benfica coach Jorge Jesus expects Les Marine et Blanc to be training their focus solely on Europe, something which makes them a dangerous proposition going into the UEFA Europa League round of 16.
While the Eagles are vying with FC Porto for Portuguese Liga supremacy – they are two points clear of their rivals with nine matches remaining – Bordeaux arrive in Lisbon in tenth position in the French top flight and seemingly free of domestic pressures.
Though the Coupe de France offers quarter-finalists Bordeaux a route back into this tournament next season, Jesus believes Francis Gillot's "quality side" have earmarked the UEFA Europa League as their No1 target in the last two months of the season. "They have more ambitions in Europe than in Ligue 1," he said. "From what I've seen they are putting all their energies into this competition.
"At this stage there are no weak teams. Bordeaux are not performing well in the league, but they are doing well in the UEFA Europa League and just eliminated FC Dynamo Kiev, a side who had serious ambitions in this competition."
Having reached at least the last eight in two of the past three campaigns – not to mention the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals – this Benfica outfit is well-versed in the demands of knockout football. "We'll play with confidence and responsibility given our experience at this stage and knowing the tie will only be decided after the second game," said Jesus, who will field André Almeida or Roderick in place of suspended midfielder Nemanja Matić.
The encounter presents Bordeaux – without a win in three matches (a French Cup penalty shoot-out excluded) since the last 32 concluded a fortnight ago – with arguably their sternest continental assignment this term. However, Gillot is sanguine, even going so far as to say his charges have been "the surprise of the competition".
"It has been difficult," he said. "Even before the group stage, in the play-offs we were underdogs against FK Crvena zvezda and we managed to qualify. We then won our group despite sometimes facing teams who were better than us on paper. Dynamo Kyiv were also favourites and here we are now."
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