We need a minor miracle to overturn a 3-1 deficit in our Europa League tie, as we travel to Portugal for the second leg of Benfica vs Spurs.
Jorge Jesus’ side played like an excellent unit in the match at White Hart Lane, so what should we be looking to do this time?
Navigate the press
A big key to the first leg was Benfica playing as a tight unit and closing down from the front.
The three men at the head of their formation were good at hunting in a pack to force our defenders in to playing the ball back or trying to clear downfield. This caused turnovers when either Hugo Lloris or our back four kicked long.
Benfica have tall defenders of their own and Luisao and Garay were effective against Emmanuel Adebayor and Harry Kane in the air.
The Tottenham tactics for Benfica vs Spurs this time firstly needs to focus on moving the ball quickly around the back four. Secondly, we need a holding player to drop between the centre backs and give us an additional body in this area to move the ball forward. This didn’t happen in the first leg, with neither Sandro nor Paulinho filling this function.
Playing with width
There was no room in central areas in the first match and Benfica frequently filled the midfield.
The Portuguese side congested the area around Harry Kane, who was playing off Emmanuel Adebayor. This also meant that Christian Eriksen drifted in to this packed zone, as he moved inside from the left, as we can see here.
Benfica played very narrow, all ten of their outfield players are in shot in the above image, and the space was out on the flanks. If we could’ve switched the ball quickly enough to get it out wide, then there was the potential to get round the back. This is where the Portuguese side can be exposed.
Depending on how aggressive Tim Sherwood is, and how many of our first team he starts, we need to get natural width in to the side for Benfica vs Spurs this time.
We really struggled to get anything going in the final third. The centre of the pitch around the number ten position was busy. Paulinho was pushed back and his passing map, where he barely played a pass in the final third, was indicative of how we were stifled on the evening.
We need to play with width, but also getting two playmakers in to this zone may help to free things up. Christian Eriksen has quick feet, as he demonstrated on creating a glorious chance for Emmanuel Adebayor, and should play in the centre this time.
Without another creative passer with both Lewis Holtby and Tom Carroll on loan, Tim Sherwood could use a player like Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The Icelander is very capable in this role, as he showed for Swansea, and has at times for us when allowed to play in the centre. Alongside Eriksen with Sandro holding behind and two natural wingers, the ball could be moved quickly through this zone from these two passers.
Whether this is to switch it wide or to attempt through balls, getting two trequartista types in to this area could wreak havoc and may well play dividends.
Getting round the back
Benfica do pinch in to congest the centre and can be got at if the ball is quickly moved wide and behind the full backs. I looked at this in the Tottenham tactics prior to the first leg, but we rarely achieved this in the game.
The problem we had was two right footers on the left – Naughton and Eriksen – so we weren’t expansive enough down this side. Naughton did get in one time, as we can see him in acres of space here, but was unable to cross effectively with the ball on his unfavoured left foot.
Getting round the back of Benfica is possible if you have natural footed players on each side, we just have to go about it in the right way.
Benfica vs Spurs outlook
This will be another tough game against a Benfica side that is unbeaten at home and will want to progress to the Europa League Quarter Finals.
Tim Sherwood has some selection decisions to make about how many players he risks and how many he rotates. Blooding the youngsters may seem like a good idea, but if Benfica runs up the score in front of a raucous home crowd, then it could be detrimental to their confidence.
What we do need this time, whatever the line-up, is plenty of width and quicker movement of the ball. Two wingers on their natural sides and two peerless passers in the centre should achieve this, stretching Benfica both horizontally and vertically.
Benfica vs Spurs prediction: Benfica 2 Spurs 1.