- Europa League round-up
Chelsea second best in Bucharest, Spurs sparkle
Chelsea will return to Stamford Bridge behind in their Europa League tie following a surprise defeat in Romania on Thursday, as Gareth Bale once again shone as Spurs opened up a 3-0 advantage in a demolition of Inter Milan
In the earliest kick-off of the day, meanwhile, Newcastle showed no little resilience to claim a 0-0 draw in freezing conditions in Russia.
Chelsea made life difficult for themselves as they performed poorly in a 1-0 away defeat to Steaua Bucharest.
Raul Rusescu scored the game's only goal from the penalty spot ten minutes before half-time, having been nudged over in the box by Ryan Bertrand as he attempted to get on the end of an enticing cross.
The Blues struggled to create any real openings of their own, with surprise starter Yossi Benayoun perhaps guilty of wasting the best opening the away side created.
Just like Sunday's opponents Manchester United, Chelsea warmed up for the FA Cup quarter-final with a European defeat, but at least their rivals were defeated by Real Madrid. The result in the Romanian capital will only serve to increase the pressure on interim manager Benitez.
Chelsea began the season in contention for seven trophies and the Europa League is the unexpected eighth after their embarrassing Champions League group stage exit which played a part in Benitez's unpopular appointment.
Two chances of silverware remain, but chief executive Ron Gourlay this week insisted a top-four place in the Premier League and Champions League football next term is the priority. It is just as well as now they must beat United and overturn a deficit to Steaua in next week's return to keep their trophy hopes alive.
In contrast, Tottenham appear to have one foot already in the next round of the competition, after they defeated Inter Milan 3-0 at White Hart Lane.
Gareth Bale opened the scoring for the home side with a well-placed header, before picking up a yellow card for simulation that rules him out of the second leg at the San Siro. But subsequent goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson - following up a Jermain Defoe shot - and Jan Vertonghen mean the Welshman's absence is unlikely to prove crucial.
Bale grabbed the world's attention when he tore Inter apart in the Champions League. Andre Villas-Boas warned Inter that the Welshman had improved immeasurably in the two years, four months and five days that had passed since the famous 'Taxi for Maicon' night at White Hart Lane - and he was proven right.
Bale nodded home Sigurdsson's cross to put Spurs ahead after just five minutes and he set up Vertonghen from a corner for the hosts' third after Sigurdsson himself had scored the second.
Bale missed a couple of chances to match the hat-trick he scored in the San Siro two seasons ago, but in the end it did not matter as Spurs completely dominated a poor Inter team seemingly determined to get knocked out of the competition so they can concentrate on qualifying for the Champions League via Serie A.
Hatem Ben Arfa passed up a golden opportunity to celebrate his 26th birthday in style as Newcastle claimed a 0-0 draw against Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow.
The Frenchman, making his first appearance since tearing a hamstring at Fulham on December 10, was played in on goal by compatriot Yohan Cabaye with 64 minutes gone, but could not beat goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov with an ambitious chipped effort.
An away goal would have seen the Magpies take a significant step towards the quarter-finals, although had keeper Rob Elliot, once again deputising for the injured Tim Krul, not made two excellent saves from Samuel Eto'o either side of half-time, Anzhi could have been heading for St James' Park next week with a lead to defend.
In the event, Alan Pardew would have been the happier of the two managers after seeing his much-changed side cope with the artificial pitch and plummeting temperatures at the Luzhniki Stadium to deny the hosts a home victory in Europe for the first time in eight attempts this season, and give themselves every chance of progressing.
However, he will need no reminding that Metalist Kharkiv left Tyneside last month with a 0-0 first leg draw, but did not make it through to the last 16.
In the night's other games, there were away victories for both Fenerbahce and Lazio, who defeated Viktoria Plzen and Stuttgart respectively.
There were home victories for FC Basel against 10-man Zenit St Petersburg and Benfica over Bordeaux, while Levante and Rubin Kazan played out a 0-0 draw in Spain during which a player from each side was shown a red card.