The 5 Benfica Players Tottenham Will Have to Shut Down in Europa League Clash

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IMarch 13, 2014

The 5 Benfica Players Tottenham Will Have to Shut Down in Europa League Clash

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Benfica’s players are currently in London ahead of Thursday night’s clash with Tottenham at White Hart Lane and will be hopeful of maintaining Portugal’s fine recent record in the Europa League.

    With just 16 teams left in the tournament, both sides are now among the leading contenders for the title, with success in the competition a major target for both sides.

    For Spurs to claim success, though, they will need to defeat Jorge Jesus’ Benfica side and that, ideally, would mean a comfortable home victory to ensure next week’s journey to Portugal is not as fraught as it could be.

    Benfica, though, have a number of players capable of hurting Tim Sherwood’s side. Who, then, should Tottenham be keeping an eye on over the course of Thursday’s game?

Lima

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    Francisco Seco/Associated Press

    Brazilian striker Lima is Benfica’s top-scorer this season, with eight league goals to his name. In just two appearances in the Europa League, he has also bagged two in that competition.

    Having made his name with Braga, the 30-year-old has been a regular scorer in the Liga Sagres for several seasons. While not physically outstanding, his intelligence within the penalty box often sees him in the right place to convert opportunities when they arise.

    Given that Spurs’ defence has been ever-changing this season, he will hope to take advantage of any lapses in communication among the host ranks.

Rodrigo

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press

    Spanish forward Rodrigo will play off forward Lima, providing pace and directness to the Benfica attacking unit.

    The 23-year-old will be relatively familiar to British audiences, having previously spent an unsuccessful spell on loan at then Premier League side Bolton Wanderers.

    That stint in England aside, though, the Brazilian-born forward has been a fairly reliable goalscorer throughout his brief senior career and will be an annoyance to the Spurs defence throughout.

Lazar Markovic

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    Nikolas Giakoumidis/Associated Press

    Rated as one of Eastern Europe's brightest hopes for the next decade, Lazar Markovic was a major coup for Benfica when they secured his services from Partizan Belgrade last summer.

    A silky runner with the ball, with a fine right-foot, Markovic enjoys playing from the left flank and cutting in to reap havoc in central areas. He can, though, also beat his man on the outside.

    If Spurs stick with their Europa League default of using Kyle Naughton on the right of defence, Markovic will surely fancy his chances of a productive evening. Even first choice full-back Kyle Walker's occasionally suspect defensive skills will be severely tested.

Nicolas Gaitan

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press

    A left-footed Argentine who operates from the right flank, Nicolas Gaitan is effectively the inverse threat to Markovic from the other side of the pitch.

    While Gaitan lacks the extreme pace of the Serb, he is wonderfully precise when using his favoured foot, whether it be crossing or firing a shot on goal.

    Gaitan rarely lasts the full 90 minutes but is a considerable threat when on the pitch. With clever footwork, an eye for a pass and his aforementioned quality, he could hurt Spurs severely if given time to play his natural game.

Enzo Perez

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press

    Argentine midfielder Enzo Perez is the heart of the Benfica side in midfield, with his work-rate and passing ability key to Jorge Jesus' side.

    Perez, signed from Estudiantes in 2012, took a while to settle in Portugal, but he has developed into one of the best all-round midfielders in Portugal. He is, though, still adapting to life without Nemanja Matic alongside him.

    The Argentine will be up against a very combative and talented midfield at White Hart Lane, but he has the talent to potentially hurt Spurs with his vision if given space in the centre of the pitch.