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6 Biggest Storylines and Issues to Watch in Europa League This Week

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 20, 2014

6 Biggest Storylines and Issues to Watch in Europa League This Week

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Fresh off an exciting round of UEFA Champions League action, we follow up with another spate of Europa League games—spoiled, huh?

    This week, Benfica and Tottenham tussle, Basel will look to avoid crashing out in an upset and Juventus must pull off an away-day masterclass at Fiorentina.

    Check in for the biggest storylines and issues this week. 

Tottenham's No-Defence Approach

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Tottenham Hotspur have been hit by the injury bug so badly that they're travelling to Benfica with no senior centre-backs in the squad.

    That means Alexander McQueen, Milos Veljkovic, Dominic Ball and Connor Ogilvie have been drafted in, with Kyle Naughton, Ezekiel Fryers and Danny Rose providing the "experience" in the back line.

    It's got the makings of a classic or the potential to be a horrific, confidence-slaughtering mauling of epic proportions. Spurs need to turn round a 3-1 deficit and will need to go full throttle from the off. 

The Strongest to Bow Out?

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    On paper, Juventus are undoubtedly the strongest side left in the competition, but they risk crashing out of the Europa League if they can't score at the Artemio Franchi on Thursday.

    Mario Gomez grabbed a late goal to square the score at 1-1 in the first leg, and it will be interesting to see if Antonio Conte flinches and deploys Carlos Tevez and company or persists with Dani Osvaldo and the "reserves."

    How important is this competition to the Bianconeri? 

Real Betis' Blissful Escape

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    Toni Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Real Betis may be nailed to the bottom of La Liga and sit seven points adrift of 19th place, but the Europa League is an escape from the dreads of domestic action.

    After beating domestic rivals Sevilla 2-0 away in the first leg, they can finish the job at the Estadio Benito Villamarin on Thursday and progress to the quarter-finals with ease.

    Considering Sevilla are seventh in La Liga and fighting loosely for a Champions League spot, it's an odd reversal in fortunes for the two Spanish clubs. 

Basel on Upset Alert

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Basel reached the semi-finals of last year's Europa League tournament after knocking Tottenham Hotspur out on penalties and beat Chelsea in the Champions League this year.

    They're a good side with some excellent players, but they're at risk of crashing out to Red Bull Salzburg this week if they don't pull themselves together.

    Marcelo Diaz has been a huge miss due to injury and Fabian Schar missed the first leg. Regardless of absentees, though, it would be a shock if the RotBlau crash out here. 

The Many Fruits Lyon Offer

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    Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

    Lyon may be enduring a bit of a rough domestic season, sitting fifth in Ligue 1, but their European adventure has been worth a follow.

    Every time OL play, it represents a chance to check in on some of the finest young talents in European football, with Alexandre Lacazette, Gueida Fofana and Samuel Umtiti headlining a young, promising lineup.

    Get your scouting goggles on for their return fixture against Viktoria Plzen if you're not affiliated to any other teams playing. 

Benfica's Squad Rotation

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Jorge Jesus has a lot to worry about, with the Europa League just one of several competitions he's trying to win.

    Benfica have the Liga Sagres and Taca de Portugal to negotiate domestically, and after the team lost out in the final of every competition last season, the manager will be keen to ensure his squad don't fall at the final hurdle once again.

    How will Jesus balance out his squad and who will he pick to play against Tottenham Hotspur?

     

     

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