‘It will be a difficult match’ says Marchisio of Juve clash with Benfica

Juventus and Benfica meet in one of two Europa League semi-finals on Thursday, with the impending Italian champions hoping to overturn a 2-1 deficit against the already-crowned Portuguese title-winners.

Carlos Tevez and Juventus enter the second leg of their Europa League semi-final tie with Benfica down 2-1. Serena Campanini / EPA
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While they close in on retaining the Serie A title, Juventus are confident they can overturn a 2-1 deficit in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final against Benfica on Thursday.

The teams, both two-time European champions in the past, meet at the Juventus Stadium in Turin looking to clinch a place in the final, which will be played at the same venue on May 14.

That is a huge source of motivation for Juve, who are looking for a first European title in 18 years and are eyeing a trophy double after beating Sassuolo 3-1 on Monday to move to within two points of securing a third consecutive Serie A title.

“We are obviously satisfied with the victory against Sassuolo, but our thoughts move immediately to another important game against Benfica,” said Juve midfielder Claudio Marchisio after Monday’s game, in which he scored as the Bianconeri came from behind.

“It will be a difficult match, but we already showed in the first leg that we were up to the task. We will give everything on the field and we are counting on the support of our fans.”

Home advantage could be crucial for Juve, who have not lost in front of their own fans since a 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in April last year.

Portuguese champions Benfica hold the slight edge thanks to Lima’s smashing late strike at the Estadio da Luz last Thursday, but Carlos Tevez’s away goal for Juve could be vital.

Jorge Jesus’ Benfica side have been beaten just once in their last 37 matches in all competitions - and that was an ultimately inconsequential defeat to Porto in the first leg of a Taça de Portugal (Portuguese Cup) semi-final that the Lisbon club won - but this is set to be their biggest test in a long time.

And Benfica are furious at Uefa for agreeing to open a disciplinary process against their Argentinian midfielder Enzo Perez following a clash with Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini in the first leg.

The Italians complained to European football’s governing body, who are due to make a ruling ahead of the game about whether to punish Perez, who has been one of Benfica’s best players this season.

Benfica sense a conspiracy, with their director of communication saying: “Benfica wonder if Uefa, with this decision, want to guarantee that Juventus get to the final in Turin.”

Jesus, though, is more concerned with trying to make sure his team manage to score an away goal, and said after the first leg: “We are capable of scoring in 99 per cent of our games, but there was one game in which we had to score and we didn’t. It was in Greece. It’s going to be a great game in Turin.”

That defeat in Greece was a 1-0 loss to Olympiakos that proved decisive in them failing to advance from their Champions League group. Juve also dropped into Europe’s second-tier competition after exiting the Champions League, but Valencia and Sevilla have been in the Europa League from the beginning.

Now the two Spanish sides clash in the second leg of the other semi-final with Sevilla defending a 2-0 first-leg lead thanks to goals by Stephane Mbia and Carlos Bacca.

Valencia are without on-loan Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu due to injury and must also cope in the absence of the suspended Paco Alcacer, who has scored seven goals in the competition this season, including a hat-trick in the quarter-final second leg against Basel.

However, Valencia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi will take heart from his team’s display in that game, when they overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit to go through with a 5-0 victory after extra-time.

“We need to take a few risks because they are 2-0 up and to turn it around we will have to attack,” said Brazilian forward Jonas.

“It is a long time since Valencia were in a final and we know it will be difficult but we will have our fans behind us.”

Fixtures on Thursday

At Valencia, Spain

Valencia (Spain) v Sevilla (Spain) (0-2)

At Turin, Italy

Juventus (Italy) v Benfica (Portugal) (1-2)

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