Tottenham face Benfica on Thursday, March 13 (1:05 PM Pacific, 20:05 GMT) at White Hart Lane in the first leg of the Europa League Round of 16 tie. Spurs will seek to take the first step towards the quarterfinals, but they will have no easy task against last year’s Europa League finalists, who started this season in the group stages of the Champions League.
Spurs’ bid to make it to Europe’s premier club competition themselves next year suffered a major blow after the 4-0 defeat at Chelsea, and manager Tim Sherwood did not hesitate to point the finger at his stars, saying that he is not the players’ babysitter, and that some of them are playing for their future in the club. Sherwood is looking for a response from his players, with big games coming up in Europe and in the league. But he is expected to make some changes in his lineup, because of some injury problems and to keep players fresh for Sunday’s North London derby against Arsenal. Captain Michael Dawson is out with a hamstring injury, adding his name to an injury list already containing those of Vlad Chiriches, Etienne Capoue and Erik Lamela. There are positives though as well, with Moussa Dembele contention, while Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose could return.
Benfica are doing a very good job of forgetting last season’s drama of losing the title and the Europa League conceding last-minute goals. They are well on their way to win the Portuguese league this time, and are currently 23 games undefeated in all competitions. Their last defeat was back in early November at Olympiacos for the Champions League group stage, one competition where they did not have much luck this season. Despite playing some good football, they finished third in their group behind PSG and the Greek champions, but ahead of Belgian side Anderlecht, gaining a place for the Europa League Round of 32. There, they met another Greek club, PAOK Salonica, who were beaten easily twice. Tottenham are the next hurdle on the way to a second successive final for Jorge Jesus’ side, but the Portuguese coach has some problems for the Spurs game, with Uruguayan defender Maxi Pereira missing out and Argentine winger Eduardo Salvio doubtful with a flu.
Tottenham vs Benfica Prediction
Tottenham will look to make amends after the humiliation at Chelsea, and they could play with less pressure in the Europa League compared to the Premier League. Benfica, on the other hand, are a side capable of scoring with players like Oscar Cardozo, so expect goals. Possible score: 2-2.
Tottenham vs Benfica Television
The match will be televised on Fox Sports 2 USA, and ITV1 (UK).