Tottenham Hotspur travel to the Estadio Do Luz in Lisbon Thursday night, knowing they are going to need a miracle if they are to overturn a 3-1 deficit against Benfica and progress to the quarter-finals of this seasons Europa League.
Tim Sherwood’s side are in the midst of an injury crisis, they fly over to Portugal without a first choice centre-back after Younes Kaboul became the latest defensive doubt when the Frenchman picked up an injury against Arsenal on Sunday. They are already without Jan Vertonghen, who is suspended; Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches also miss out through injury, while Kyle Walker will not make the trip due a persistent groin injury and left-back Danny Rose is undergoing a late fitness test. Meaning that Sandro will be required to drop back from defensive midfield to fill one of the places with young Belgian full-back Zeki Fryers likely to fill in alongside him.
Spurs’ injury worries don’t stop there, Emmanuel Adebayor and Paulinho will also miss the match after the latter picked up an injury in training, he looks set to be rested for their match against Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, whereas the former picked up an ankle injury and a gashed knee in last weekend’s North London derby. Moussa Dembele, Etienne Capoue and Erik Lamela complete the sides’ injury list.
Thursday night will certainly be a case of square pegs in round holes for Spurs defensively, which will fill the Portuguese side with even more confidence after their impressive display at the Lane a week ago. They are sitting top of their domestic league with a seven point cushion on Sporting Lisbon and have only lost once in the league this season. They narrowly missed out on a place in the Champions League round of 16, finishing on the same amount of points as Olympiakos but going out on goal difference.
In last week’s performance against Spurs they more than justified why they were playing in Europe’s premier club competition with Rodrigo and a Luisao double giving them victory over Spurs, who did pull goal back through a Christian Eriksen free-kick.
A two-goal lead and three away goals for Jorge Jesus’ side means that Spurs have it all to do in Lisbon. Their side is ravaged by injury and have only won twice in their last seven. It will be up to players like Eriksen and Roberto Soldado to prove their worth if the North London team have any hope of making it through at the Stadium of Light.
KICK-OFF: Thursday, 6:00PM
PAST THREE MEETINGS:
Tottenham 1 (Eriksen) Benfica 3 (Rodrigo, Luisao x2), Europa League last-16, March 2014.
Tottenham 2 (Smith, Blanchflower) Benfica 1 (Aguas), European Cup semi-final second leg, April 1962.
Benfica 3 (Aguas, Augusto x2) Tottenham 1 (Smith), European Cup semi-final, March 1962.
After entering the round of 32 from the Champions’ League group stage, Benfica are aiming to reach the final for the second successive season.
Tottenham have won in Portugal before, they beat Sporting Braga in 1984 and 2007, winning 3-0 and 3-2
The last time Spurs were knocked out of a European competition by Benfica they went on to win the European Cup Winners Cup the next season. Good omen?
Benfica have lost six out of 13 matches at home to English opposition.
Benfica are 19 matches undefeated in all competitions, with the last time they lost being to Olympiakos in the Champions League at the start of November.
Tottenham : 5.5
Tottenham have beaten Benfica before but you have to go all the way back to 1962. In the second-leg of their European Cup semi-final Spurs welcomed the Portuguese side to White Hart Lane having lost the first leg in the Estadio Do Luz 3-1. They needed to win 3-0 on the night but got off to the worst possible start when in the 15th minute they fell further behind on aggregate. Aguas strode through the Tottenham defence to score.
After going behind Spurs dominated proceedings and equalised through Bobby Smith in the 35 minute. Bill Nicholson’s side pressed and pressed but the Benfica defence stood firm. Two minutes after the break, Danny Blanchflower tucked home a penalty after Smith had been fouled. Sadly for Spurs they couldn’t find an all-important third goal to take the tie to a replay in Brussels and Portuguese side beat Real Madrid 5-3 in the final to retain their European Crown.
TV: Live on ITV4 at 6pm.