SL Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said "this match will determine the rest of the season" as they go to RSC Anderlecht seeking victory to keep their Group C ambitions on track.
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SL Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said "this match will determine the rest of the season" as they go to RSC Anderlecht seeking victory to keep their UEFA Champions League Group C ambitions on track.
Jesus knows a win is paramount after defeat at Olympiacos FC earlier this month left them three points adrift of the Greek side in second. Only a victory would keep Anderlecht in contention even for a UEFA Europa League place and the match has all the hallmarks of a "a real Champions League cracker" according to John van den Brom, who is urging his team to put a disappointing weekend performance behind them.
• Benfica will be out of the competition with a defeat, and also with a draw if Olympiacos do not lose to Paris Saint-Germain. Anderlecht must win and hope Olympiacos lose to stay in contention for a top-two finish.
John van den Brom, coach
You cannot compare the Champions League to the domestic league. The disappointment of the defeat [at R. Charleroi SC at the weekend] has to be put to one side. It was a tough blow for us. We'd had a number of good results before then, but then suddenly you have an off-day, affecting many of our key players, and you lose to Charleroi. It is not something you want as a player or as a fan, but these things happen. It is up to us to do better now.
This could be a real Champions League cracker. We are going for third place while Benfica need a win to keep alive their Champions League hopes. We both want the win. Saturday was a nothing day. We have digested it and I hope for a good reaction tomorrow. I am happy to have a full squad to choose from. As a coach you have more choices and there is more competition between the players.
Since matchday one Benfica have improved. They were in poorer shape then but we still lost the match early on. We have stepped up since then, though. It would be nice if we could round off our home Champions League campaign with a victory. We have to return to the heights we reached in Paris [on matchday four]. We could really use the support of our fans.
Saturday: R. Charleroi SC 2-1 Anderlecht (Pollet 48, Kebano 58; Gillet 73)
Proto; Vanden Borre, Kouyaté, Mbemba, Deschacht; De Zeeuw (Vargas 64), Milivojević (Gillet 64), Kljestan; Bruno, Mitrović, Praet.
• Kick-off was delayed by 30 minutes after Anderlecht's bus was caught in traffic, with the Zebras ending the Brussels side's three-game winning streak in the Belgian First League – handing them their first league defeat since 6 October.
Guillaume Gillet scored on Saturday after shaking off a knee injury, with the return of Silvio Proto (ankle) and Ronald Vargas (knee) – the latter after a seven-month absence – leaving only Matías Suárez (knee) in the treatment room.
Jorge Jesus, coach
All matches are important for us, just like the one against PSG [on matchday six]. Not only on the pitch but also financially. Anderlecht have a good team; all the teams in this Champions League group are of a high standard. We have a lot of respect for them. But we think match by match, so this game against Anderlecht is the most important one right now.
We definitely need to get a victory here. If we manage to do so, we can still progress in the Champions League. Otherwise we can only think about continuing in the Europa League at best. But we are determined to win this one. This match will determine the rest of the season for Benfica.
It is hard to do without a striker who has scored so many goals for us. [Óscar] Cardozo is my best striker, so I will have to adjust my team a bit in his absence. I have no doubt that Cardozo will be back for us in the rest of the season. For tomorrow, though, we will find a solution and approach things in a different way.
Saturday: Benfica 1-0 SC Braga (Matić 72)
Artur; Sílvio, Luisão, Garay, Siqueira (Almeida 71); Matić, Pérez, Djuricić (Rodrido 59); Gaitán, Marković (Ivan Cavaleiro 65), Lima.
• Nemanja Matić's first goal of the season maintained Benfica's record of having scored at least once in their last 44 Portuguese Liga games – and in their last 68 at home.
Guilherme Siqueira limped off 70 minutes into his comeback match on Saturday, having been sidelined with a thigh injury since 27 October. Óscar Cardozo (back) and Miralem Sulejmani (left thigh) missed the Braga fixture entirely.
• Anderlecht have a solid record at home to Portuguese visitors. Apart from their statistics against Benfica – they have conceded just one goal in four games – their five other home matches have yielded four wins and a draw, with no goals against.