Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Benfica preview (h)

Victory over Dnipro saw us make it to the last sixteen of the Europa League and now its Spurs vs Benfica in the first leg at White Hart Lane.

The Portuguese league leaders are in excellent form and are a match for anyone. With the opener at home it makes the task even more difficult, as we need to establish a lead without giving them any away goals.

So what can we expect from last season’s beaten finalists and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Benfica this time?

Benfica set up and style

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus lines his side up usually in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but also uses 4-3-3.

They are a very active team and can press opponents high up the pitch at home or if they are playing against opposition that they believe they can dominate.

On the road, they are more likely to operate a medium block. This sees them press the first pass in to midfield in order to try and win back possession and spring quickly forward on the counter attack.

In midfield the Benfica coach was employing two excellent ball winners in Nemanja Matic and Lubomir Fejsa. The departure of Matic has seen them lose their best holding player, but in the Europa League he has since gone with Ruben Amorim. Both players are solid, but not gobbling everything up like Matic was.

Ahead of them Nicolas Gaitan is a serious threat from the left side of midfield. The Argentinean can glide past opponents off the dribble and is highly capable of delivering a precise through ball or cross.

Up top Oscar Cardozo is an excellent target man. He is tall and extremely powerful, capable of holding the ball up and bringing others in to play. He has a decent shot and is also good at getting in to the box and on to the end of crosses.


Oscar Cardozo passes received against Olympiakos.

Jorge Jesus also has Brazilian striker Lima who is a threat to run on to through balls, but is also a real predator in the box.

spurs vs benfica-lima-pass-rec-psg

Lima passes received against PSG.

The Benfica coach has usually gone with one or the other, but has been known to combine the pair. He probably won’t go this open in the first leg, but may do if chasing the tie at home.

The dangerous Nicolas Gaitan

Nicolas Gaitan is Benfica’s most creative force and will wreak havoc down the left, much like Yevheniy Konoplyanka did for Dnipro in the last round.

The Argentinean is a good dribbler who can go ghost past full backs, but he also very much has an end product. This can be from a through ball or a cross, as his delivery is often extremely accurate.

Against Olympiakos in the Champions League he did just this. He not only supplied crosses from the left that found their target, but also drifted inside to play through balls.


Nicolas Gaitan passes played against Olympiakos.

Gaitan is also a dead ball specialist and this is an area of concern with Benfica’s height. Matic, who is good in the air may have departed, but he still has plenty of targets to aim for. Gaitan is also highly capable of scoring directly from free kicks, something that PAOK found out in the last round.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Benfica needs to see us shut Gaitan down and Kyle Walker would be a better choice than Kyle Naughton to do this. Aaron Lennon who has struggled going forward, but works tirelessly defensively would also be a sound choice on this side.

Counter attack

Teams that have had success against Benfica have played them on the counter attack. This includes powerhouses like PSG in the Champions League, even at home.

After an initial burst that saw them take the lead, the French champions dropped back and looked to invite Benfica forward, before launching their counter attacks.


PSG ball recoveries against Benfica.

This was extremely successful with their three forwards of Lavezzi, Cavani and Ibrahimovic.

PSG controlled the possession with a whopping 71%, but of their 880 passes on the night only 96 were attempted in the final third. They invited Benfica forward and then struck at speed.

Olympiakos also beat Benfica in the Champions League and they too played on the counter despite being at home.


Olympiakos recoveries against Benfica.

Benfica controlled the possession and the shot count, but the Greek side won through a set piece. This is also something that Benfica have struggled with.

How Benfica concede goals

Benfica have conceded goals in one of two ways.

The first is from set pieces. In their Champions League group games, both PSG and Olympiakos scored from corners. They also lost last year’s Europa League Final to Chelsea courtesy of Branislav Ivanovic’s header from a corner in injury time.

The link between all three goals is that they don’t use men on either post, which would have seen them clear each time.

The second method that sees them concede is by getting behind their full backs.

PSG were ruthless in doing this in their 3-0 win at the Parc des Princes.


PSG chances created against Benfica.

They also should have added a fourth as Lavezzi got in-behind and squared for Cavani, who failed to finish.


PSG get in-behind Benfica’s full backs.

Anderlecht also exploited this in their Champions League match at home to Benfica. Anthony Vanden Borre picked out Massimo Bruno with an excellent slide rule pass to find him in-behind the full back to score.


Anderlecht get in-behind a narrow Benfica defence.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Benfica here would see us do well to look to get runners in-behind their full backs. This would not only create opportunities to cut the ball back across goal, but also to force corners, which Benfica can also be exposed on.

Spurs vs Benfica outlook

This will be an extremely tough game against one of the favourites for the Europa League, who will be looking to go one better than last season. Benfica were unlucky not to progress through their Champions League group this term, going out with the benchmark of ten points that usually secures qualification.

Jorge Jesus’ side are extremely well set up, but they can be got at on the road by teams that play them effectively by looking to draw them out.

The team news that Danny Rose is back in contention is a welcome boost with us being so thin on the ground at centre back. Hopefully Younes Kaboul can manage two games in quick succession to partner Jan Vertonghen.

Having the first leg at home is not ideal and we need to establish a decent lead to take in to the return next week. This may be hard to achieve given our recent lack of goals.

Spurs vs Benfica prediction: Spurs 1 Benfica 1.

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11 Responses to Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Benfica preview (h)

  1. AnythingButPenalties 13th March 2014 at 11:59 am #

    I have seen suggestions that Benfica may rotate their team to concentrate on the league, and that they may leave players like Gaitan, Rodrigo and Markovic out. This would certainly help us.

    Lets hope we can get behind their defence, not something we have been very good at so far this season.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th March 2014 at 1:57 pm #

      Would help us if they do, Gaitan and Markovic especially.

    • Joao 13th March 2014 at 2:45 pm #

      For me the big question is who will be the player who plays in the position 8.

      Enzo is fantastic and do not think Benfica have alternate with the same quality, as much as I like the Ruben Amorim but the Enzo is a machine.

      The coach of Benfica is playing with players’ motivation. All play and want to keep playing so give the maximum in every game and at every opportunity they have.

      What I fear most is that Jorge Jesus sometimes invents a bit and the thing goes wrong.

  2. Joao 13th March 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    There are several errors in this analysis.

    The benfica playing a 4-4-2 formation. where 1 striker and second switch positions regularly.

    Today Benfica will replace several players that will allow play a style more vertical game. using the wings as Sulejmani, Salvio.

    My big questions is who will be the second striker and who will be playing at position 8.

    The analysis of the game with PSG is very misleading because since then the team has already found its equilibrium. Not playing Matic the team is not as offensive but became more solid.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th March 2014 at 1:55 pm #

      Hi Joao, do you think he will play Lima with Rodrigo as a second striker, as he has done before to play a more vertical game?

      • Joao 13th March 2014 at 2:29 pm #

        Hello Mark,

        i believe that i will rest that 2 player and put Cardozo with other player, maybe Djuricic.

  3. http://aguiavitoria.blogs.sapo.pt/ 13th March 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    Good afternoon, I’m fan of Benfica, and I wish you much luck in the game tonight.
    It will not be an easy game for either team, but I think tottenham favorite because Benfica will not play with the best players, the priority is the championship of Portugal.
    I hope it’s a great game of football.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th March 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      I hope Benfica does not play a strong team, but this means that they can maybe keep some players fresh for the second match next week. Enjoy the game!

  4. David 13th March 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    I think Benfica will play like this :


    Pereira Luisão Garay Silvio

    Amorim Enzo

    Markovic Djuricic Suljemani


    when usually Benfica plays with :


    Pereira Luisão Garay Siqueira

    Feija Enzo

    Markovic Gaitan

    Rodrigo Lima

  5. BENFAS 13th March 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    Aftermatch thought. Our coach may be an asshole but u at Tottenham seriously need one. Not the biggest fan of AVB but at least he knows how to organize a team.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th March 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      Yes, Benfica we’re very well organised and that is one thing that has been missing for Spurs since AVB.