Spurs v Benfica: The lowdown on the Portuguese league leaders
PUBLISHED: 07:45 13 March 2014
Tottenham host Jorge Jesus’ Benfica at White Hart Lane tonight in the last 16 of the Europa League.
Tottenham may be as far away from the Champions League as ever this week, but they will get the chance to test themselves against one of Europe’s elite sides at White Hart Lane tonight.
Benfica dropped out of the Champions League last season and went on to reach the Europa League final, losing 2-1 to Chelsea in Amsterdam after a 90th-minute winner from Branislav Ivanovic.
So far history is repeating itself and Jorge Jesus’ outfit fell just short in the Champions League group stage again this term.
Benfica picked up 10 points but still finished third behind Paris St Germain and Olympiakos in Group C, narrowly losing out to the Greeks on goal difference.
Falling into the familiar Europa League, Jesus’ side faced PAOK Salonika in the last 32, and they triumphed 1-0 in Greece before winning 3-0 at the Stadium of Light.
That victory in the second leg gave them their 10th successive home win in the Europa League, a run that started back in April 2010 – a record for the tournament, which they share with Atletico Madrid.
Meanwhile, on the domestic front, Benfica are leading the Portuguese league by seven points, lying ahead of Sporting Lisbon and FC Porto.
Jesus feels the tie is worthy of Europe’s senior competition, stating: “Tottenham are a top-class Premier League team. It will be hard but they have to respect Benfica too, they will be facing an excellent team. Now it’s like the Champions League.”
Ones to watch…
The Paraguayan forward Oscar Cardozo is a stylish frontman who scored six goals in seven games earlier in the campaign – and it was he who got Benfica’s goal against Chelsea in last year’s Europa League final.
Brazilian striker Rodrigo Lima has scored nine goals in his last 15 games, netting in both legs of the last-32 tie against PAOK.
At the other end of the pitch, defender and captain Luisao has been at the club since 2003, and has played for Brazil in two World Cups and three Copa America tournaments.
Right-back Maxi Pereira is an experienced Uruguay international and is likely to be lining up against England in the summer’s World Cup.
Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham faced Benfica in the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1962.
Benfica took a 2-0 lead in the first leg in Lisbon and, although Bobby Smith halved the decifit, the Portuguese side won the match 3-1.
Spurs went 4-1 down after 15 minutes in the return leg at the Lane, but they fought back and Greaves saw a goal controversially ruled out for offside before Smith made it 1-1 on the night.
Spurs poured forward and Danny Blanchflower scored a second-half penalty to make it 4-3 on aggregate, but the equaliser never came. Dave Mackay came closest when he agonisingly hit the crossbar in the final moments.
Benfica went on to beat Real Madrid 5-3 in the final thanks to two goals from the legendary Eusebio.
It promises to be a great occasion under the lights at the Lane, but we can see Benfica getting a 1-1 draw which will leave them in pole position for the return leg.