Despite a difficult test against Dnipro, Spurs face their mightiest challenge yet in the form of Benfica on Thursday. With the home leg coming first in the tie, the White Hart Lane residents need to muster up a ‘comfortable’ result, in order to make the transition to the next round that much easier, when travelling to Portugal for the second leg. Spurs are hosting the Portuguese giants for the first time since they met in the European Cup semi-final in 1962. Benfica won that tie and beat Real Madrid in the final.
Tottenham have played ten games against Portuguese sides in UEFA competition, with the record W7 D1 L2 (W5 D0 L0 at home). Benfica have played 32 games against English clubs in UEFA competition, most recently last season’s UEFA Europa League final in Amsterdam, which they lost 2-1 to Chelsea FC. Their record in those games is W10 D5 L17. Spurs are unbeaten in 11 European home games (W9 D2) since a 2-1 loss to PAOK FC in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League group stage.
Spurs beat FC Internazionale Milano on away goals at this stage of last season’s UEFA Europa League to reach the quarter-finals, where they lost out to FC Basel on penalties. After entering the round of 32 from the UEFA Champions League group stage, Benfica are aiming to reach the final for the second successive season. Tottenham (1972, 1984) are one of six previous UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League winners left in the competition along with Sevilla (2006, 2007), Valencia CF (2004), SSC Napoli (1989), FC Porto (2003, 2011) and Juventus (1977, 1990, 1993).
Injury wise, Etienne Capoue (ankle), Erik Lamela and Vlad Chiriches (both back) are out. Christian Eriksen (back) and Danny Rose (knee) could return while Mousa Dembélé is in contention.
Predicted team: Lloris, Walker, Veljkovic, Vertonghen, Fryers, Lennon, Sandro, Bentaleb, Chadli, Eriksen, Soldado
Predicted score: Tottenham 1-1 Benfica