Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2014 23:48 | By Agence France-Presse

Spurs up against it in Lisbon, Italian derby poised

Tottenham Hotspur are right up against it as they travel to Portugal to face Benfica in the Europa League on Thursday, while Fiorentina will hope to get the better of Italian rivals Juventus.


Spurs up against it in Lisbon, Italian derby poised

Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen celebrates after scoring during their Europa League round 16, first-leg match against Benfica at White Hart Lane on March 13, 2014 - by Glyn Kirk

Tim Sherwood's Tottenham side must overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit when they face Benfica at the Estadio da Luz if they are to keep English interest in the Europa League alive into the quarter-finals.

Spurs were outclassed at White Hart Lane last Thursday, and their worst ever home defeat in Europe came in between damaging Premier League losses to London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.

With Jan Vertonghen suspended and Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson carrying injuries, they have defensive selection concerns for this game too.

Winger Andros Townsend knows that Tottenham cannot be considered favourites given Benfica's outstanding recent record, but he remains hopeful of pulling off a shock after drawing some encouragement from the 1-0 loss to Arsenal.

"We know it was a good team performance, we worked hard, controlled possession and had more chances," he told the club website. 

"We know ultimately we lost, but we can take the positives to Benfica. We've nothing to lose. We're two goals behind from the home leg, so we can go there, have a go and see what happens."

Spurs lost 3-1 on their last visit to play Benfica in the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1962. If the Portuguese giants are not currently at the level of that great side, led by Eusebio, they are still in great shape.

A 4-2 win against Nacional on Monday extended their unbeaten run to 25 matches. They have won their last 10 games and are seven points clear of rivals Sporting at the top of the domestic Super Liga, a competition which coach Jorge Jesus has admitted must be the priority this season.

However, Jesus has warned his team that perceptions will change very quickly if they don't keep their form going. 

"One result can change everything overnight," he said. "At Benfica, we just need to draw a game for people to start questioning the capacity of the team, and that can have an impact on the players. We are about to see if we have what it takes to be champions."

- Juventus, Napoli with work to do -

Juventus moved closer to retaining their Serie A title at the weekend and reaching the Europa League final in their own stadium in Turin would cap their season.

However, they go to Italian rivals Fiorentina on Thursday with work to do after Mario Gomez's late equaliser in the first leg gave La Viola a 1-1 draw and put them in control.

"They have a fearsome squad, but in a one-off game anything can happen", said veteran Fiorentina midfielder Massimo Ambrosini.

There will definitely be one Italian team in Friday's quarter-final draw then, and there could be another if Napoli manage to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit when they entertain Porto at the San Paolo.

"We reach this game with confidence," said Napoli coach Rafael Benitez after his side's 1-0 win at Torino on Monday in Serie A. "We need to get everyone fit again and hope we are fresh for a match that will be like a final."

There is another derby in store in Spain, where La Liga's bottom club Betis will hope to see through a 2-0 first-leg advantage when they entertain city rivals Sevilla at the Benito Villamarin.

Unai Emery's Sevilla side bounced back from that loss to beat Valladolid 4-1 at the weekend, but they have now lost Uruguayan midfielder Sebastian Cristoforo to a knee injury and Vicente Iborra is suspended while Stephane Mbia is also struggling.

Betis have fitness concerns too, but the tie is in their hands. "We got a good result, but nothing has been done yet," said coach Gabriel Calderon after the first leg.

Elsewhere, Valencia and Lyon defend three-goal leads against Ludogorets Razgrad and Viktoria Pilsen respectively, but AZ Alkmaar go to Russia with a fragile one-goal advantage against Anzhi Makhachkala and it is all to play for between Salzburg and Basel after a goalless first leg.

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn