Tottenham v Dnipro: Tim Sherwood challenges Spurs team's character ahead of Europa League second leg
Tottenham need to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
Thursday 27 February 2014
The Tottenham Hotspur manager, Tim Sherwood, has challenged his players to show they have what it takes to handle the demands of playing for a club with such high expectations, as they face two potentially season-defining fixtures in four days.
On Thursday night they are at home, looking to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the last 32 of the Europa League. "We are not blessed with trophies and I want to put this tie to bed," said Sherwood on the importance of victory.
But he also fears defeat will affect the side's moral going into Sunday's Premier League home game with struggling Cardiff City as Spurs chase a top-four finish and Champions League qualification. Last Sunday's disappointing 1-0 defeat at Norwich left them six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool and they cannot afford any more slip-ups.
Sherwood's assessment of the performance at Carrow Road was blunt: "Let's face it," he said, "if you can't beat Norwich away, you don't deserve to be in the Champions League."
Now, he stressed, it is time for his players to step up to the plate. "I'll pick a team to go out there and turn the tie around and a lot of the same faces will play on Sunday," added Sherwood, who admits his team were surprised at the quality of Dnipro, led by former Spurs manager Juande Ramos.
"White Hart Lane has always been a big stage. It's a demanding place. You can either play for a big club or you can't. Some of them have to prove they have the character to be able to play for Tottenham. From the mid-table sides downwards, with due respect to them, if you are a professional you can play for them. You don't have that added pressure, with the media all over you. But you have it at Tottenham. Can they handle it or not? We'll see."
He went on: "It's a confidence thing. If we can turn this around, our next game against Cardiff becomes a lot easier. If we don't, it becomes a far tougher game even though they are at the bottom of the league. That may sound stupid because everyone expects us to beat Cardiff. But that's when the onus is on you. You've got to go and do it. "
With half a dozen injuries eating into his squad, Sherwood will not rest many players, though one could be Emmanuel Adebayor.
This means that Roberto Soldado will be given the main goalscoring responsibilities – and another chance to prove he is no £26m misfit. "I sat down with him this week and had a chat," said Sherwood. "Maybe this is his time. He's going through a barren spell but he's got to have the character to come through."
Spurs will, however, be boosted by the return of midfielder Sandro, who will play some part, having been sidelined since suffering a calf injury in December.
The most emotional person in the ground will be Jermaine Defoe, who is not fit to take part in the tie and so has played his last game for the club as he leaves for Toronto FC at the weekend.
He departs as the fifth highest goalscorer in the club's history and their most successful in Europe. "Jermain Defoe is one of the best goalscorers this club has ever seen," said Sherwood – and the ovation he receives will be testament to that.
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