Spurs travel to the famous Estádio da Luz this Thursday, with exit from the Europa League looking a near certainty. After the 3-1 loss at home in the first leg, Tottenham need to score at least three goals to have a chance of making it to the quarter finals. 3-0 would put us through, 3-1 would mean extra time and penalties, any more goals and a victory margin of two goals would be enough.
Having scored a total of two goals from our last four matches, this seems unlikely. The only positive note is that we were essentially in the same situation with only 35 minutes left against Dnipro (i.e. needing three goals) and we made it through. Of course, that was at home and with all due respect to the Ukrainians, Benfica are a much more talented and sophisticated team.
Sunday’s North London Derby performance was full of commitment but low on subtlety. Here we will need both. Eriksen, the architect of our Dnipro revival, has to play and he has to play centrally. I would play two up front. Soldado scored a confidence boosting goal against Cardiff and has since been benched – he deserves a chance. Townsend impressed with his pace and willingness to run at Arsenal, he should also feature.
Benfica continued their fantastic form at the weekend, winning 4-2 at fifth placed Nacional to maintain a seven point gap at the top of the Primeira Liga. The league is their priority, and with a comfortable lead they will almost certainly rest players. As in the first leg, the Portuguese will look to stay compact, soak up any pressure and hit us on the break with their pacey wide men. They will also try to use their height at set pieces, which led to two of the goals at White Hart Lane.
Spurs again have an injury crisis, particularly in central defence. With Vertonghen suspended, Dawson and Chiriches out and Kaboul now also a doubt, Sherwood faces the prospect of travelling without any recognised central defenders. He may have to ask midfield players to deputise. This has not been a success in the past: see Capoue against Liverpool or Sandro against Chelsea.
Walker is also out, and Danny Rose faces a late fitness test. The latest news suggests Paulinho and crucially Sherwood’s talisman, Adebayor, look doubtful. Mission improbable now looks like mission impossible.
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