Jorge Jesus would like to have avoided debutants Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC having studied SL Benfica's first opponents yet he feels the challenge can help his side overcome their Liga struggles.
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SL Benfica's Portuguese title defence may not be going well but coach Jorge Jesus thinks the different challenge of Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC in the UEFA Champions League is just what his team need. The Group B visitors are making their group stage debut and Eli Gutman promises they will go all out to upset the odds.
Jorge Jesus, Benfica coach
The UEFA Champions League is where the best teams are and, though Hapoel Tel-Aviv are not a big name, they're a side I would like to have avoided having got to know them. Tactically they are strong, with a good idea of the game, lots of technical ability. Watching them, I was positively surprised tactically and technically. Benfica will get better, though, and we can improve a lot.
Our start has been completely different from last season and certain things are not going well, but this match gives us motivation and confidence because our opponents may not know us that well. In the Champions League, the players are desperate to do well, not only because we are reigning champions but also because people are watching us throughout Europe. The players will try to be perfect in everything they do. I hope the fans will be like they were last season too, especially at difficult moments. We want their support in order to perform well and win.
Eli Gutman, Hapoel coach
We know the importance of this match against Benfica. It won't be an easy game, but we are very determined and we feel ready for it. It will be a very different match from the ones we play in Israel, but the team are ready for all six group games. Other sides may think they will get six points off us, but we are here to compete, we have potential and we'll try to surprise all those who think we won't get any points in this competition.
Benfica play in a different way to what are we used to, they go 4-4-2 and knowing that we'll try to compete with them. The players will give their all. Because our defence is not so powerful or strong, against attackers like Óscar Cardozo, Javier Saviola, Pablo Aimar and Nicolás Gaitán we'll try to deny them the space they need. We have trained for that. I don't think Benfica's league results matter, because those are different matches from different competitions.
Forward Alan Kardec and defender Roderick have yet to recover from pre-season hamstring injuries, but while Eduardo Salvio missed Friday's game at Vitória SC with a muscular complaint, Fábio Coentrão started despite a right thigh injury sustained in Portugal's 4-4 draw with Cyprus on 3 September.
Eran Zahavi has a broken nose but could play in Lisbon wearing a face mask. Fellow attacker Mahran Lala could be out for the season after rupturing knee ligaments while Etey Shechter, Hapoel's 22-goal top scorer last season, tore his hamstring in Hapoel's opening league game.
10/09/10 Vitória SC 2-1 Benfica
(Edgar 17, Rui Miguel 83; Saviola 32)
Having won only one Liga game this season, and also lost 2-0 to FC Porto in the Portuguese Super Cup, Benfica were consigned to their worst start to a top-flight campaign in 58 years with defeat in Guimaraes. They were beaten just twice in 30 Liga fixtures last term.
11/09/10 Hapoel Akko FC 2-2 Hapoel
(Arafat 16, Folchuk 56; Mare 75, Tamuz 84)
Toto Tamuz scored on his debut as Hapoel recovered from going two goals down to salvage a point. Salim Toama also came on for his first appearance for Hapoel in what is his third spell at the club.
Did you know?
Both Hapoel and Benfica competed in last season's UEFA Europa League, the Lisbon team making it to the quarter-finals and Hapoel going out in the round of 32. The Israeli champions lost three of their four away games, conceding nine goals, although they did record a 3-0 victory at SK Rapid Wien en route to the knockout stage.
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