Saturday, March 16, 2013

Benfica - but no Ben Arfa

Yesterday's Europa League draw saw us paired with Benfica for the quarter-finals, with the first leg away from home - a somewhat more manageable and appealing trip than the last two. The Portuguese side reached this stage by disposing of our group stage opponents Bordeaux, winning both home and away. While we needn't fear anyone now, it was probably a relief not to be pitched up against either of the two English clubs - but Benfica are on an extremely good run of form and will be very tough adversaries all the same.

It's also looking very much as though we'll need to try getting through without the aid of HBA, whose season may be over. According to the Silver Fox, the Frenchman needs an operation on a hamstring injury. It's not as though we haven't had to cope with his absence before, given that he's made only two fleeting appearances - against Fulham and Anzhi - since November, and in the last two matches at least Sylvain Marveaux has supplied some of his left-footed guile and invention. Nevertheless, the Silver Fox is right in saying he "gives us that X-factor" and a prolonged spell on the sidelines is hardly very welcome when Dreamboat may be ruled out for a while too.

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