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Jesus backs Benfica to outgun Zenit's history boys

Luciano Spalletti describes it as the most important match in FC Zenit St Petersburg's history but SL Benfica coach Jorge Jesus believes it will end in tears for the Russians in Lisbon.

Jorge Jesus is backing Benfica to overturn their 3-2 first-leg deficit
Jorge Jesus is backing Benfica to overturn their 3-2 first-leg deficit ©AFP/Getty Images

SL Benfica coach Jorge Jesus is predicting goals when FC Zenit St Petersburg come to town on Tuesday night, and is confident his home side will "score more and qualify". His opposite number Luciano Spalletti, meanwhile, believes that his team's "character" will see them through a match he has described as "the most important in Zenit's history" with a first UEFA Champions League quarter-final place in the offing.

Coach Jorge Jesus 
In our stadium with a good pitch and normal weather we can qualify. We know that we're playing a good side, a strong one, with five players in the Russia team that beat Denmark last week. Apart from their individuals they are tactically very strong too but in our stadium, with our fans behind us, I think we can win.

I predict that both teams will score, but I believe we will score more and qualify. We want to reach the quarter-finals and after the result in the away leg, with our fans and our quality I think we'll do it. Jardel is a possible option as cover for [Ezequiel] Garay in defence. For [the suspended] Pablo Aimar, we have Rodrigo and [Javier] Saviola, so let's wait and see. This tie was 50-50 after the draw was made but our two away goals give us some confidence and we feel that we can qualify though, as I say again, Zenit are a very strong side.

Weekend result
Friday: Benfica 2-3 FC Porto (Cardozo 41 48; Hulk 7, Rodríguez 64, Maicon 87)
Artur; Emerson, Luisão, Garay (Vítor 71), Pereira; Gaitán, Javi García (Oliveira 90), Witsel, Nolito; Aimar (Rodrigo 52), Cardozo.

• Emerson was sent off (77) as the Eagles suffered their first home defeat of the season in their 18th game; they had won all ten of their previous Liga matches at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica this term. Starting at Zenit, Benfica have suffered three defeats in four games, quite a change in fortunes for a side that had previously lost once in 34 outings in 2011/12.

Team news
Pablo Aimar is suspended while Garay is also missing from the 19-man squad with an injury to his left knee that he suffered against Porto. Yannick Djaló damaged his right thigh in training on Saturday.

Coach Luciano Spalletti 
I think that the outcome of the tie will be decided by my players. Our aim is to get a result and qualify. I have always had teams that were very good in terms of character and I think that this will help us decide the tie. When we played Porto we didn't play well but we got a result and qualified. I am sure that we'll fare much better against Benfica. The best of the Portuguese players is the one who is sitting beside me now, my No10 [Danny].

This is the most important match in Zenit's history and I want my players to perform at their very best for the whole match. We cannot think about playing for a draw in a match like this. There are no favourites here and we cannot think about the one-goal advantage we have. Our aim is to play our game and win. In my profession playing in matches like this is the best feeling you can have. When you get to this stage every match is incredibly special.

Weekend result
Saturday: PFC CSKA Moskva 2-2 Zenit (Dzagoev 17, Musa 68; Kerzhakov 1 56)
Malafeev; Anyukov, Lombaerts, Hubočan, Criscito; Fayzulin (Zyryanov 74), Semak, Denisov, Shirokov, Arshavin (Lazović 55); Kerzhakov (Kanunnikov 90+3).

• Aleksandr Kerzhakov took his tally to 11 goals in his past ten Premier-Liga outings as leaders Zenit resumed after the Russian winter break with a draw away to the side that began the day six points adrift in second. Zenit are 17 matches unbeaten in all competitions, dating back to the matchday one defeat by APOEL FC.

Team news
Goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev (calf) and Criscito (food poisoning) have returned after missing the first leg but Aleksandr Bukharov is out with a hamstring problem. Danny has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

Match fact
This is the first European meeting between the teams on Portuguese soil. In four home fixtures against Russian opponents Benfica have won two and drawn two, conceding only one goal.

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