Benfica coach Jorge Jesus feels there should be little emphasis placed on the respective domestic form of his side and Newcastle United in the build-up to their UEFA Europa League quarter-final first-leg meeting in Lisbon tomorrow.
Jesus' team are the Portuguese Liga leaders, are yet to lose a league game this season and on Saturday registered their sixth successive victory with a 6-1 win over Rio Ave. Newcastle, meanwhile, are 15th in the English Premier League, three points above the relegation zone, and head into tomorrow's contest off the back of a 4-0 loss at Manchester City - their fourth defeat in their last six top-flight fixtures.
But that contrast is something regarded as "not important" to this tie by Jesus, who is sure the Magpies will provide Benfica with a tough assignment. When it was put to him that tomorrow's match at the Estadio da Luz will pit a team lying first in their domestic league against another lying 15th in theirs, Jesus said: "This is not important. The Europa League is different. It has nothing to do with domestic leagues.
"Newcastle is a strong team in the Europa League. They have played 12 matches and only lost once. So it is open. It is not going to be decided tomorrow and it should be a good match, with strong players on both sides," the Portuguese coach said. "Newcastle have reached the quarter-finals and that means they are a strong team - all teams that reach this stage are more or less at the same level."
Jesus' opposite number Alan Pardew has indicated he does not want his Newcastle team simply to adopt a defensive approach tomorrow against a Benfica side who have scored over 100 goals in all competitions this term. Asked what he expects from the Magpies, Jesus said of Pardew: "This coach has a different way, with a more direct approach than a lot of English teams.
"They are going to be strong and fast coming from defence to attack, and will cause us many problems with players like (striker) Papiss Cisse."
Jesus also suggested an interest in working in England himself one day. The 58-year-old ex-Braga boss said: "The English league is interesting, but my concentration now is on winning with Benfica. We live in a global market and every professional has to think about one day coming to work in a foreign country. But that is not the important thing right now."
Jesus confirmed that Argentina winger Eduardo Salvio has been ruled out of tomorrow's game through injury, and that Holland wide man Ola John will be coming into the Benfica team.