On Thursday, Tottenham will play host to Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League’s last-16 tie. It surely is a mouthwatering clash as Tim Sherwood’s men will be quite eager to bounce back from the 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Chelsea. On Saturday, Spurs showed lack of spirit against the West Londoners and paid heavily because of their defensive blunders. Benfica’s current form is something that makes this match even more interesting. The Portuguese giants have registered 21 wins in their last 23 matches.
Last time these two sides met in Europe, half a century ago, sparks flew. It was probably the greatest ever Spurs side under the legendary manager Bill Nicholson. It was the first side in the English history to have completed the League and FA Cup double. Not just the North Londoners, it was arguably the greatest ever Benfica team too. Portuguese legend Eusebio, one of the finest players ever to have graced the game, was the backbone of the side which reached 5 European finals in that decade and came out victorious twice.
52 years ago Spurs boasted of tremendous players such as Dave MacKay, Cliff Jones, John White and Bobby Smith. Tottenham were quick learners too and in their debut of the European competition they reached the semi finals to face the already champion side Benfica.
In the first leg, Benfica easily edged out Bill Nicholson’s men and the game ended 3-1 in favor of the Portuguese club. Augusto scored a brace and Simoes added one for Benfica, whereas Bobby Smith managed to get one for the English giants.
For the second leg at the White Hart Lane a crowd of approximately 60,000 turned up. The atmosphere and the air before the match suggested that Tottenham could turn things around and reach the final in their first ever European Cup competition. There were even banners stating “LISBON GREAVES TONIGHT”
But to the dismay of Tottenham fans, Benfica took the lead through Aguas’ goal in the 15th minute. The home side didn’t gave up easily and pulled two goals back reducing the aggregate to 4-3. It was a good come back yet the London side fell one goal short of a replay at the neutral Brussels.
Spurs have the opportunity of making up for that loss in this second tier of the European competition. Players who would be miss this game through injury are Moussa Dembele, Vlad Chiriches, Christian Eriksen and Etienne Capoue.