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Apr 23, 2014

Juventus wary of Benfica's threat

Juventus coach Antonio Conte says he has seen enough Benfica games to know his side face their biggest hurdle yet on the way to a potential Europa League final at their own Juventus Stadium.

Antonio Conte knows Benfica is the strongest side Juventus will face in the Champions League.

Rzouki: Clash of titans

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez, whose Chelsea beat Benfica in last season's Europa League showpiece, had offered to assist Conte in beating Jorge Jesus' men, but Conte has politely turned him down while acknowledging that the Portuguese side have given him plenty to ponder.

"I trust myself and my assistants, and I've seen Benfica play plenty of times to know what we're up against," Conte said at a news conference on Wednesday. "Jorge Jesus is doing a fantastic job with Benfica and I have a great deal of respect for him and his side."

That respect has grown following Benfica's title-clinching win over Olhanense at the weekend.

"Certainly the fact they've already won the title is very positive for them as they already have the security of having won something," added Conte. "We've still got to reach this objective ourselves, so while Benfica can concentrate solely on this game, we still have to think of this game, then the league, and then the return leg.

"But we've got to rise to this occasion. It may be tiring, but it could be very rewarding."

Indeed, the reward on offer to the Bianconeri is a first European final in 11 years, and one inside their own home.

"Of course it's an opportunity because it's not common to have the chance to play a final inside your own stadium," said goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in Lisbon. "We'd like to be there, but the final is still a long way away. There are two games -- two very difficult games -- between us and that, and we're up against a side who would like to take our place in the final in Turin."

Buffon was in goal for that 2003 Champions League final, which Juve lost to Serie A rivals AC Milan, and he will be looking to pass on his memories to his teammates, who he said should see this semifinal as a chance to gain some important European experience.

"I've seen a lot, but I've not seen it all," he said, and then bemoaned Juve's Champions League elimination earlier this season. "Our disappointment in Istanbul could become an opportunity for us to see what we are worth in Europe, and you can only do that by winning. There are only two European cups to win each year, so there are only two teams in the whole of Europe who can win one. Considering we're in the semifinal, it's only right see if we can go all the way.

"Certainly when I talk about this being an opportunity for Juventus to develop in Europe, I mean also that this could be the chance for many of our players to experience certain feelings and emotions, to know how to deal with certain moments that happen in the most important games in Europe, and I think this is very important for our growth.

"Tomorrow is going to be a great test for all of us, even those with experience like me. Benfica versus Juventus is a Champions League game, even if we're playing it in the Europa League."

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