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Jesus insists Benfica are focused

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus says his players have moved on from their heart-breaking loss to Porto ahead of the UEFA Europa League final.

The Lisbon club saw their chances of winning the Primeira Liga go up in flames on Sunday, as they lost for the first time in the league campaign to Vitor Pereira’s side thanks to a stoppage-time Kelvin goal.
The result could have been a fatal blow to Benfica’s hopes of winning Europe’s second-tier club competition, but Jesus insisted his players have recovered and are excited ahead of Wednesday’s final against Chelsea in Amsterdam.

“A Portuguese league game, although very important, has nothing to do with the final of a European competition,” Jesus said.

“It wasn’t very difficult to try and change the frame of mind (among the players), because the fact you’re here is a positive sign and creates a positive mindset for the players.

“They’re highly motivated for tomorrow to be at the highest level, technically, tactically, and in terms of emotional balance.”

The Portuguese outfit won the European Cup in 1961 and 1962, but have lost six continental finals since, and Jesus believes the club are making progress in their bid to become a heavyweight of continental football again.

“Benfica is a club that, throughout its history, has had an excellent performance in terms of European club competitions,” he said.

“It created a name for itself, like Real Madrid and AC Milan, in the 60s and 70s. These were the teams in the most finals.

“It hasn’t been the same in recent history. But last year we reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League…so we’ve been recovering our international prestige.”

Jesus hailed Chelsea, who he said are improved this season, and he labelled Rafael Benitez’s side as favourites for the match.

“In my opinion the strongest teams in the Europa League reached the final,” he said.

“Chelsea is an excellent team and they will finish the Premier League in third place which shows their quality. Chelsea this year has other players which give it a different quality in my opinion.

“They have better individuals, Oscar and (Eden) Hazard (who will miss the final), so these two players have a technical quality missing last year.
“It’s normal people think Chelsea is the favourite but a final is a final and we have a different way of looking at those statistics. We have all the possibility of becoming winners tomorrow.”
Tue 14 May, 2013
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