Antonio Conte has called on the Bianconeri to draw inspiration from their impressive second-half display at the Estadio da Luz and take one step closer to ending an 18-year wait for European silverware by seeing off Benfica on Thursday night at Juventus Stadium.
A slender one-goal advantage in the Eagles’ favour separates the semi-finalists ahead of tomorrow’s decisive return leg in Turin, but Conte believes the strength shown by his men throughout a dominant second period in Lisbon will serve them in good stead when hostilities resume on Italian soil.
Starting with a reflection on the 2-1 reverse in Portugal, the 44-year-old began: “We put in a fine performance in Lisbon. Conceding after two minutes affected us, because it’s not easy to regroup. Benfica put great emphasis on counter-attacking, but created little play.
“There was only one team in it during the second half, with greater precision we could have scored more than we did. Tomorrow we need to be smart when going forward and deny our opponents the opportunity to break on the counter. I’m confident we can do it.”
The task facing the Bianconeri, however, is a challenging one. Benfica are yet to taste defeat in this year’s Europa League and will have added motivation to go all the way after falling at the final hurdle last year against Chelsea.
But the manager believes a fearless approach and the fervent support of a packed out Juventus Stadium will be two particular elements that could help make the dream of a return on 14 May come true.
“The word ‘fear’ isn’t in our vocabulary, ‘respect’ yes, but fear no. We’ve had an extraordinary run up until this point and deserve to be involved in a European semi-final.
“Both us and our fans need to be enjoy this moment with great enthusiasm, after 11 years of watching others get to the latter stages of European competitions. We’ll have the entire stadium behind us tomorrow.”