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Spurs Odyssey Europa League Preview - Spurs v Benfica, 13.03.14

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Spurs record in Europe:-
The official crest of Tottenham Hotspur
U.E.F.A Champions League
 P   W   D   L   F - A
12   5   3   4  25 -19
European Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
8   4   1   3  21 - 13
(Semi-Finalists 1962)
European Cup Winners Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
33  20  5   8  65 - 34
(Winners 1963)
UEFA Cup/Europa League
 P    W   D   L   F - A
116  68  29  19  239-93 
(Winners 1972, 1984
 Finalists 1974)
P    W   D   L   F - A
169 97  38  34  348-159
The club logo of S.L Benfica

Could this be another big European night for Spurs?

Spurs fans of a certain age will tell you about a European match that was considered one of the very best nights at White Hart Lane. That match was the second leg of a European Cup semi-final, played on Thursday 5th April, 1962, almost a full 52 years ago. The opposition was the World famous Portuguese side Benfica, who were the reigning European Champions, and who would go on to retain their title.

In 1961, Benfica had beaten Barcelona, and in 1962 they beat Real Madrid, who had so dominated the early years of the European Cup, winning the trophy in the first five years.

Brian Judson's article about both those games against Benfica formed part of his series about the Double side's European Cup campaign. Suffice to say that Spurs felt deprived due to offside decisions against them in both legs, but fought so valiantly to get within one goal of Benfica in the final aggregate score (3-4).

Nearly 65,000 mortals crammed into White Hart Lane on that April night to see a Benfica team which was in those days graced by the legendary Eusebio, who sadly passed away just two months ago. Eusebio was a much loved footballer, and it would have been fantastic to have seen something of him at either of the stadia for this tie.

We had to wait for 48 years for another campaign in the Blue Riband European club event, when we did something that Manchester City have yet to achieve - reached the quarter-finals! That campaign featured a highly memorable 3-1 home win over Inter, which one correspondent did compare with that famous night against Benfica.

It is sad to reflect that tickets for tonight's game went on general sale. Whilst we are playing two rounds of the Europa League, Champions League sides are negotiating their round of 16, before we all knuckle down to the quarter-final stage. In the eyes of so many Spurs fans the Europa League is a second rate competition, and yet it is our only chance of silverware this season.

Spurs will have their work cut out to get past Benfica, who were recently voted World Team Club of the month for February, 2014. Benfica are clear leaders of their league, (they finished runners-up last year), and have won 21 and drawn 2 of their last 23 games in all competitions. Their last defeat was on 5th November, away to Olympiakos, who finished above them in their Champions League group only on goal difference. Drawing at home against the greek team, and that defeat ended their chances of qualification. Benfica did beat PSG in their last group game, but the French side was already assured of qualification.

In League matches, Benfica's leading scorers are the Spaniard RODRIGO Moreno (known as Rodrigo), and the Brazilian Rodrigo LIMA (known as Lima). Lima scored at home and away against PAOK in their Round of 32 game, whilst in their 3-0 home win, midfielders Gaitan and Markovic also chipped in with goals.

Benfica haven't even conceded a goal for 9 games. That was a 1-1 draw away to Gil Vicente. That 1-1 draw was also preceded by another 7 wins, in which Benfica kept a clean sheet. I make that 15 clean sheets in their last 17 games!

There is some encouragement in the Spurs team news, with Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen back in the reckoning. Younes Kaboul was always going to be available for this game, and is likely to partner Jan Vertonghen with Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches out. Kaboul will be required for Sunday's game against Arsenal, and can play, now that his red card has been rescinded from last week's game at Chelsea. One wonders if Kaboul has two games in four days in his legs though. Capoue is also unavailable.

Spurs need a two goal lead to take with them to the real Stadium of Light next week. if they can do that, then this could indeed be another great European night for Spurs!

The referee for this game will be Jonas Eriksson from Sweden. Mr Eriksson's additional assistants and the fourth official (all are from Sweden) were involved in our 4-1 home win against Anzhi in December.

Please note that for technical reasons my usual post-match survey and report may be delayed for the next two games.

On this date 15 years ago, Tim Sherwood scored his third goal for Spurs to give us victory over Aston Villa

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