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Laurent Blanc knows SL Benfica will present his Paris Saint-Germain FC team with a sterner test than the Portuguese Liga table suggests when they meet in UEFA Champions League Group C.
The Eagles are five points off the pace at home, having failed to win half of their six games this term, but the former France defender expects them to click into gear sooner rather than later. Acknowledging the size of Benfica's task, Blanc's opposite number Jorge Jesus is "counting on" Paris's sizeable Portuguese population to come out in support of his side.
Laurent Blanc, coach
We know Benfica are fifth in their league, but it would be a safe bet to say they will finish in the top two or three come the end of the season. They have been very consistent, which explains their great experience in the Champions League. We have to respect them, but must also have the will to win and cause them a lot of difficulties.
In the league they like to dominate possession and dictate the game, but I don't know if that is the way they plan to play in the Champions League and, what is more, away from home in Paris. That will be our objective, though. Whoever manages to dominate possession will control the game.
We know Benfica well, even more so since we've scouted them a few times since the draw. I know Jorge Jesus – we had an opportunity to talk at the recent [UEFA elite club] coaches forum. It is their intention which will shape the game – will they sit deep and wait at the beginning of the match, or try and attack straight away? I have no idea.
Alex was injured but we are hoping he will be available – he is in the squad. However, Javier Pastore is definitely out. I will put my best team on the pitch. I don't know any coach that does not field his best players in Champions League matches.
Saturday: PSG 2-0 Toulouse FC (Marquinhos 41, Cavani 79)
Sirigu; Van der Wiel, Marquinhos, Camara, Maxwell; Rabiot, Thiago Motta, Verratti; Lucas (Matuidi 79), Ibrahimović (Cavani 69), Ménez (Lavezzi 57).
• Marquinhos, who did not score in 30 appearances for AS Roma, has now found the net twice in four games for PSG.
With Thiago Silva and Alex nursing injuries, Marquinhos and Zoumana Camara played in central defence against Toulouse. Javier Pastore was not involved because of a "slight hamstring injury", according to Blanc.
Jorge Jesus, coach
PSG are, in theory, favourites to win this group. With the signings they have made, they can aim not only to shine in the French league but also to perform well in the Champions League. It'll be a difficult match, but Benfica have never changed the way they play – at least not in the five years I've been at the helm.
I‘ve spent a lot of time analysing PSG. They have a very good team from an attacking point of view – Zlatan Ibrahimović, Edison Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas can trouble any defence – but we haven't come here to sit back. If we manage to keep possession, as we always do, we'll have a good chance of getting a positive result.
It's not the first time Benfica will have played at Parc des Princes, and we can count on a large Portuguese fan base. Paris has the second largest Portuguese population in Europe, after Lisbon. We're counting on them to help us, but we realise we need to give them something to cheer about.
Saturday: Benfica 1-1 CF Os Belenenses (Cardozo 17; Mourtala 30)
Artur; Pereira, Luisão, Garay, Cortez; Fejsa, Pérez, Matić (Sulejmani 64), Marković (Gaitán 46); Lima (Rodrigo 80), Cardozo.
• Despite taking the lead, Benfica failed to maintain their 100% home record in all competitions this season.
Rúben Amorim (thigh), Sílvio (knee), and Eduardo Salvio (knee) were not involved at the weekend, but Bruno Cortez and Nicolás Gaitán both returned from thigh injuries.
• The teams met two years ago in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 when Benfica successfully defended their 2-1 lead from the first leg, drawing 1-1 at Parc des Princes. The Lisbon club had come from behind in the first game after Péguy Luyindula opened the scoring. They levelled through Maxi Pereira, with Franco Jara notching the winner.
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