Benfica ‘very confident’ ahead of Celtic clash despite captain’s ban

Benfica are optimistic of overcoming the absence of captain Luisao – banned for two months for pushing over a referee – in tonight’s opening Champions League Group G clash against Celtic in Glasgow.

The Brazilian defender was given the domestic ban for an incident with official Christian Fischer during a pre-season friendly with Fortuna Dusseldorf.

On the eve of the match, Fifa applied the suspension worldwide, meaning Luisao will miss four Champions League fixtures.

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Even without their skipper, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus believes his side can make a strong start in a group which also includes Barcelona and Spartak Moscow.

“We are very confident,” Jesus said. “We are prepared for all conditions. The fact this has happened to Luisao is important, but we have other players.

“It’s important to note that we focus on the game. All players have the same importance. My concern is the opposition, missing players is a secondary concern.

“We have conditions to use different players in different circumstances to adapt to the game.

“We’ve worked on a strategy to match any team, be that Barcelona or any other team. The last three years, Benfica have been in the Champions League. We’re prepared for this match and we want to try to achieve a good result.”

Benfica will also be without the suspended Maxi Pereira, who was sent off in last season’s quarter-final second leg with eventual champions Chelsea, against a Celtic side back in the Champions League following a four-year absence.

Celtic have suffered just two defeats in 18 home fixtures in the Champions League, but Neil Lennon’s side enter the match with eight points from their opening five Clydesdale Bank Premier League games.

Celtic’s worst start to the season since 1998/99 included a 2-1 loss at St Johnstone on Saturday. Jesus played down the significance of that result.

“It is normal for all teams in a game before the Champions League to be thinking more about the next big game,” Jesus added. “The performance against St Johnstone I expect will not be reflected in tomorrow’s game. It will be a different team.”

Benfica have two wins and a draw from three competitive fixtures this season and drew 1-1 in a friendly with Spain’s Real Betis last week.

Lima could make his debut against Celtic after signing from Braga.

The forward made his Champions League debut against Celtic in July 2010.

Lima said: “I remember Celtic from the last time. I do not recognise some of the players at the moment.

“I’m very happy to be wearing the Benfica strip. I will try my best.”