Tottenham Hotspur's Europa League campaign is hinging on a dramatic turnaround against Benfica on Thursday.
Manager Tim Sherwood's side are 3-1 down on aggregate, without a win in their last three games and missing a number of players—a tally which could be extended by the time they take to the field at Estadio da Luz.
Sunday's 1-0 loss to Arsenal was tough to take on an afternoon that Tottenham's endeavour, if not their quality, was worth at least a point. Attacking midfielder Nacer Chadli embodied this more than most:
Speaking to Spurs' official website, the Belgian admitted his disappointment at failing to score in an otherwise impressive display. He also underlined his own, and the team's, frustration at not earning a confidence boosting win after a rough couple of weeks:
Two days later and I’m still thinking about this game. I didn’t get a lot of sleep for two nights thinking about it. It’s a huge shame that we lost the game. We had more of the ball and more chances. We deserved more.
Satisfaction over their efforts heading into the round of 16 return leg with Benfica have been tempered by a number of new injury concerns heading into the match.
Though not officially confirmed at the time of writing, both BBC Sport and The Independent are among the media outlets suggesting Younes Kaboul and Kyle Walker will likely miss out. The latter's Sam Wallace also reported Emmanuel Adebayor and Paulinho are potential absentees, while Danny Rose "will also undergo a late fitness test."
With Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson still injured, and Jan Vertonghen suspended, these additional concerns could see Sherwood fielding a decidedly makeshift defence. Not ideal against the talented and well-drilled Portuguese Liga leaders, who exposed Spurs so ruthlessly last week.
In goal, Hugo Lloris is just about a certainty to play. The France captain's leadership will be vital in marshaling the inexperienced backline in front of him.
Assuming Kaboul does not make it, Sandro's defensive skills make the midfielder a prime candidate to drop back. Zeki Fryers may have predominantly featured at left-back for Spurs, but he has played centre-back before and should join the Brazilian here.
Barring him getting hurt too, Kyle Naughton will be at right-back. If Rose is declared fit he will start as usual on the opposite flank (if he is absent, do not be surprised to see Sherwood try a 5-3-2 of sorts, with a couple of his wingers operating as wing-backs).
With Mousa Dembele's availability uncertain, it is a decent bet Sherwood will pack his midfield with most of the senior options available to him.
Nabil Bentaleb is likely to be tasked as its pivot, on sentry duty in a deeper position that will allow Chadli and Christian Eriksen a tad more freedom in their own central midfield positions.
In this scenario, Aaron Lennon will come back in at right midfield with Andros Townsend switching to the left.
Up-front, Harry Kane is a possibility as the lone striker after starting against Benfica last week. However, with Spurs needing at least two goals to salvage this game, Roberto Soldado's nous could prove vital. Having not started since scoring against Cardiff City, he deserves his chance to prove he can deliver for his team.
A humbling end to Tottenham's Europa League run may await in Lisbon. If nothing else, with their backs firmly against the wall, Sherwood will hope his side at least come out fighting as they mount a memorable last stand in Europe.
Predicted Tottenham line-up versus Benfica: Lloris (c); Naughton, Sandro, Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Chadli, Bentaleb, Eriksen, Townsend; Soldado.