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Defensive dearth will see Spurs struggle to stop Benfica progress

| 20.03.2014

The last time Spurs played a makeshift defence in a big match they got hammered 5-0 by Liverpool, and Andre Villa-Boas was swiftly sacked.

Successor Tim Sherwood faces the odds in both keeping Tottenham in the Europa League and hanging onto his position as head coach (1/12 to not be in charge come next season).

Coral make the visitors, who are 3-1 down on Benfica from the first leg of this last 16 tie, 5/1 to win in Lisbon on the night and 10/1 to advance.

None of the senior centre backs at White Hart Lane are available for this trip to Portugal because of injury and suspension.

In the absence of Vlad Chiriches, club captain Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and the banned Jan Vertonghen, Brazilian destroyer Sandro looks set to partner former Manchester United youngster Zeki Fryers in the heart of defence.

Midfield pair Etienne Capoue and Mousa Dembele are both out too. Argentine winger Erik Lamela is also still sidelined by back a problem, and it doesn’t stop there for Spurs. Right back Kyle Walker is absent as well, while left-sided counterpart Danny Rose faces a fitness test.

Sherwood also has injury doubts over the rejuvenated Emmanuel Adebayor and box-to-box Brazil star Paulinho, so punters should be sanguine about Tottenham’s chances of getting anything from this game. Even a draw on the night looks remote at 3/1.

Hosts Benfica, meanwhile, have almost a fully fit squad to choose from. Full back Silvio Pereira serves a suspension, and there are slight doubts over keeper Artur and forward Ivan Cavaleiro, who recently made his senior Portugal debut.

Jorge Jesus’ Lisbon giants are naturally odds-on favourites both for victory on their own patch (6/10) and to qualify for the quarters (1/25). There is no case whatsoever for Spurs keeping a clean sheet here, but odds of 11/8 on Benfica shutting them out are attractive.

It’s not a question of Coral being unpatriotic, but this really is a case of how many the home side will score. Benfica winning to nil is a 7/4 shot, but punters should be looking for them to at least match the number they netted in the first leg.

Total goals for the hosts being over 3.5 looks tasty at 6/1. If it’s likely scorers you are after, then look no further than Rodrigo Moreno – a target for Liverpool and former Bolton Wanderers loanee – and Oscar Cardozo.

Spanish forward Rodrigo opened the scoring in the first leg, and is 9/2 to do so again in Lisbon. Paraguayan target man Cardozo, meanwhile, has a fantastic record of getting goals against English opposition. Back him to find the net anytime at 6/5.

Punters that fancy a long shot may be tempted by odds of 50/1 on Benfica captain Luisao scoring two or more. The Brazilian managed to bag a brace in north London and, because of the makeshift Spurs defence Sherwood must put out, the visitors will be vulnerable from set pieces again.

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Jamie Clark

Athletics aficionado, die-hard snooker fan and Crystal Palace supporter Jamie has written for Coral since February 2014 after spells with Soccerlens and the Press Association as a digital journalist and copywriter. A former East Midlands sports correspondent and Bwin tipster, he is a graduate of both the University of York and University of Sheffield, with a Masters in web journalism from the latter.