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Benfica and Braga gear up for semi-final

Published: Wednesday 27 April 2011, 20.49CET
Both coaches spoke confidently ahead of the all-Portuguese UEFA Europa League semi-final, Jorge Jesus "convinced" SL Benfica will extend their dominance over SC Braga.
Benfica and Braga gear up for semi-final
Jorge Jesus (left) oversees training on Wednesday ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

BenficaBraga

Goals scored15
 
6
Attempts on target48
 
31
Attempts off target54
 
34
Corners60
 
31
Offsides13
 
27
Fouls committed131
 
138
Yellow cards14
 
24
Red cards0
1

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Published: Wednesday 27 April 2011, 20.49CET

Benfica and Braga gear up for semi-final

Both coaches spoke confidently ahead of the all-Portuguese UEFA Europa League semi-final, Jorge Jesus "convinced" SL Benfica will extend their dominance over SC Braga.

Having already helped SL Benfica pocket three trophies in his two years at the helm, Jorge Jesus is "convinced" the Eagles will take a step closer to further glory by getting the better of SC Braga in their UEFA Europa League semi-final.

A final is a prestigious occasion for everyone involved and I hope and am convinced that I'll be there for the first time
Jorge Jesus
Benfica have conceded goals in 14 games in a row, and my team creates three of four chances per match so I hope we're effective
Domingos Paciência

The Lisbon club welcome their domestic rivals to the capital for the first leg on Thursday on the back of Saturday's Portuguese League Cup final victory against FC Paços de Ferreira, a triumph which followed a Portuguese Cup semi-final loss to runaway league champions FC Porto the previous midweek.

Jorge Jesus has urged fans questioning Porto's dominance "to see the bigger picture" as he put his spell in charge in perspective. "I'm in my second season and we've won three trophies," he said. "Since 1994 the club have only won six, so half have been under me and this is the way people have to see the situation."

You need to flick back further in the record books, to 1990, for Benfica's last continental final – a 1-0 European Champion Clubs' Cup loss to AC Milan in Vienna – yet they are favourites to eliminate a team sitting a place and 14 points behind them in the Liga.

"I've never had a chance to reach a European final before," continued Jorge Jesus. "I've been close with Braga and Benfica, reaching the quarter-finals with both. A final is a prestigious occasion for everyone involved and I hope and am convinced that I'll be there for the first time.

"The important thing is to follow what we've done in previous ties by winning at home to set us up for qualification away; if we can do that without conceding then that would be perfect. We're capable of reaching the final and want to make the dream of winning it a reality."

The Benfica coach, who is sweating on the fitness of Nicolás Gáitan, Carlos Martins and César Peixoto, noted that Braga are "especially strong on the counter and good in possession", traits that have helped the northern club achieve two-legged wins against the likes of Sevilla FC, Liverpool FC and FC Dynamo Kyiv this season.

Braga have travelled south without suspended striker Paulo César but otherwise have a full squad to choose from. Coach Domingos Paciência, 42, is confident his team will not miss their forward, saying: "We are Braga, nicknamed the Warriors, and we want to reach Dublin. The team which makes the fewest mistakes will qualify, and a mistake could be fatal to either team.

"My players are very confident that they can grab a win here at Estádio da Luz. Benfica have conceded goals in 14 games in a row, and my team creates three of four chances per match so I hope we're effective."

This tie guarantees a Portuguese presence in the Irish capital on 18 May, and it could even be an all-Liga affair if Porto overcome Villarreal CF in the other semi. "It's an immensely proud moment to have three teams left in the competition," concluded Paciência. "I hope two Portuguese teams make it to Dublin and that one of them is Braga." We will know on 5 May.

Last updated: 29/04/11 16.10CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/season=2011/matches/round=2000132/match=2007738/prematch/preview/index.html#benfica+braga+braced