His side may have lost the first leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final, but Jorge Jesus is confident SL Benfica can turn the tables on Fenerbahçe SK when the tie concludes in Lisbon on Thursday.
Egemen Korkmaz scored the only goal of a tense match to give Fenerbahçe a slender advantage to take to Portugal yet, as befits the coach of a team that have won 12 of their 13 home games in the competition, Jesus was in bullish mood at his pre-match press conference. "We are more confident now than we were before because 1-0 is a result we can manage," he said. "We'll be better with our fans behind us and I don't think Fenerbahçe will be as good here. We know they have got some good results away but we're stronger at home, so we believe we can reach the final."
Benfica's defeat in Turkey ended a 38-match unbeaten run in all competitions, but the Eagles have still not lost in 19 home games and Jesus has faith in their pedigree. "Our goal is to turn this tie around – 1-0 is a tricky result, but we know and have the confidence that we can go through," he added. "We have European experience in both the Champions and the Europa Leagues and we know what it's like to be at this stage. We are calm and won't change anything. We are very confident and hope our fans can help us to reach the final – that's what we all want."
Jesus's charges went down to SC Braga at this juncture two years ago and the coach was keen to calm any home nerves, saying: "It's not the most important match of my career, or Benfica's. It's good to be in a semi-final and it's important for the club's image, but a final is even better. We're just one game away and the first-leg result allows us to believe that it's possible to make it real. I'm not nervous because I'm an experienced person and we all know how is to be here. I feel normal and hope my players are the same. It's a sign of both confidence and that we are ready to achieve our goal."
While the hosts must wait on Nicolás Gaitán's fitness and have Ola John banned, the visitors are without the suspended Mehmet Topal and Pierre Webó. Even so, they can travel with belief having remained unbeaten in seven UEFA Europa League away fixtures this term. In contrast to his opposite number, Fenerbahçe coach Aykut Kocaman was happy to describe the occasion as "one of the most important in our history", adding: "Benfica are a more experienced side and have played many European matches. Even with us being 1-0 up in the tie, the chances are equal for both teams.
"We're facing very strong opponents, we have a one-goal advantage but we're not through yet – we'll only know that after 90 or 120 minutes," the coach continued. Indeed, such is Kocaman's conviction it will be a tight affair in Lisbon that his side have been practising penalties, with the coach hoping for better than Cristian managed when spurning a first-leg spot kick. "In the last training session we worked on penalties, but it's more important to be mentally ready to take them. We didn't play well in the first game, but we played the way we were able to. Benfica are stronger here and have the home support with them, while we have the result on our side. For me we're even."
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