It is not without a sense of irony that Tim Sherwood, the man who replaced Andre Villas-Boas, could secure his position as Tottenham manager by claiming victory in the very competition in which the Portuguese manager first caught the eye of the Premier League.
But with hopes of Champions League qualification fading in the wake of a 1-0 defeat to Norwich City, that is the situation facing the former Blackburn captain with the north London club currently 6/1 second favourites to claim a first European title in 30 years.
To do so they must first progress past a Benfica team that ended Newcastle United’s participation in this competition last term and will be eager to avenge their eventual defeat to Chelsea in the final.
The Portuguese giants are 16/1 to win the Europa League but they remain someway off current favourites for the cup Juventus, who can be found at odds of 11/4 after dropping out of the Champions League and progressing past Turkish side Trabzonspor with some ease in the last round.
And for all the claims of superiority on the side of the Serie A team, Tottenham showed why they should not be written off after a sensational comeback against Dnipro at White Hart Lane, scoring three goals in 13 minutes to overturn a 2-0.
The result was further evidence of the dominance Spurs continue to enjoy at home in the competition, with the Lilywhites extending their unbeaten run at the ground to 11 games, with nine of those results being victories.
Sherwood’s side have been prolific in front of their own fans too, scoring three or more goals in four of their five matches played at White Hart Lane in this season’s Europa League.
And in his management of Emmanuel Adebayor the Spurs boss has pulled off something of a coup, with the forward contributing 11 goals in 15 games since being brought back into the fold by the new manager.
But Sherwood’s biggest masterstroke could be yet to come, with Tottenham now perfectly placed for European success, having impressed not only at home but also on the road in the competition.
In the five games played away from White Hart Lane, the Lilywhites have yet to concede a goal from open play, with the only blot in their copybook being Yevhen Konoplyanka’s late penalty for Dnipro in the first leg of their last 32 tie.
Beating a Benfica side that struggled in the Champions League and is eager to reclaim the Portuguese title following a period of Porto dominance should prove straightforward, while the draw has thrown up a series of ties that could allow Tottenham to ease through to the latter stages and closer to glory.
Win the Europa League and Daniel Levy may have to rethink those rumoured plans about bringing in Louis Van Gaal.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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