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Sherwood forced to rely on youngsters

By Simon Peach

Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood again had to field questions about his future ahead of a Europa League clash at Benfica made all the more difficult by a "crippling injury list".

As if overcoming a 3-1 deficit was not bad enough, Spurs have had to travel to Portugal without 11 first-teamers for the last-16 return leg.

Hugo Lloris, Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Mousa Dembele, Paulinho and Emmanuel Adebayor are all sidelined for the clash in Lisbon, where the north Londoners' defence is the biggest concern.

Michael Dawson, Vlad Chiriches, Younes Kaboul and Kyle Walker are all out injured, while Jan Vertonghen's suspension has only compounded matters.

Such paucity of options means Sherwood has had to bring seven players who have yet to play for the first team to Portugal for a match he hopes to restore some pride in.

"It would be massive to win this – there would be no bigger than this one," he said. "We've got an uphill task and we know that.

"We know it will be very, very tough, but we are professional people and we have to come with optimism and hopefully we can do the club proud again tomorrow night.

"I won't throw any of them on unless I need to. There's a time and a place to blood young talent.

"Unless we absolutely need to they won't be thrown into this lion's den because you could end up killing someone's career before it's even started. Some of these boys are apprentices. These boys are young kids, nowhere near ready to play in Tottenham's first team. It is needs must."

The youngsters that have travelled to Lisbon vary from 16-year-old attacking midfielder Joshua Onomah to Scotland Under-21s goalkeeper Jordan Archer, who is likely to be back-up to Brad Friedel at the Estadio da Luz.

The 42-year-old will not be the only experienced head in the Spurs starting line-up, but the worrying lack of options from the bench means a fourth successive loss is a distinct possibility.

Another defeat would heap further pressure on Sherwood, who had to answer questions about his future.

Louis van Gaal is the bookmakers' favourite to take the White Hart Lane helm and he recently fuelled speculation by reaffirming his desire to manage in the Premier League.

However, Sherwood, who was given in an 18-month deal when succeeding Andre Villas-Boas in December, was unmoved by the Netherlands manager's latest comments.

"People ask me this all the time, he is obviously destined to want to manage in England," Sherwood said. "He has got a good track record, he is a good manager and I'm sure he'll get his opportunity: he's been shouting loud enough for it."

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