Tottenham Hotspur vs. SL Benfica: Preview and TV schedule

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

Maybe it's time to start taking this Europa League thing seriously.

Tottenham Hotspur has advanced to the Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League, and this is where things get really tough. Dnipro was no pushover, but Benfica are one of the biggest sides in Europe historically and are always up for the Europa League. They're Champions League mainstays, but were runners-up in this competition in the 2012-13 season.

The English tend to turn their nose up at the Europa League, but the Portuguese have figured out something that should be very obvious: Doing well in the competition helps both your club coefficient and your country's coefficient. Portugal has two good teams and only two other competitive teams, but they're ahead of France and could theoretically pass Italy in the next couple of years. Benfica are 6th in the team coefficients and Porto are 10th. Tottenham? 18th.

Benfica took their Round of 32 tie against PAOK seriously, but not entirely seriously, as they rested a small handful of players. They didn't play any more of a second team in the second leg than they did in the first, even though they won 1-0 away to PAOK. There's no obvious pattern for Jorge Jesus' rotation patterns, except that Rodrigo and Ljubomir Fejsa and Siqueira did not start either game against PAOK.

Jesus is also not consistent with his formation and alters it to suit the personnel he's picked, or to counter an opponent's specific threat. He's played mostly 4-2-3-1 in Europe, but also has plans that involve his team playing in 4-3-3 and 4-1-3-2 formations. Against Tottenham, expect to see something that looks like a fairly typical 4-2-3-1, with the wide men more attacking midfielders than true wingers.

The game kicks off at 8 p.m. local time, which is 4 p.m. ET because clocks changed in the United States, but won't change in Europe for another couple of weeks. You can catch it on ITV1 in the UK, FOX Sports 2 in the United States and Sportsnet regional networks in Canada. It's also available on the streaming platforms of those outlets.

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