Tim Sherwood has again publicly called out his Tottenham squad ahead of the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie with Portuguese giants Benfica.
The Tottenham manager had already lambasted his players in the aftermath of their crumbling to a 4-0 defeat against Chelsea on Saturday. And speaking before Thursday’s clash at White Hart Lane, he again lambasted the manner in which the team capitulated after going a goal down on the hour mark while also challenging them to prove that they still have a future at the club beyond this season.
"I don't think at any football club, a player should be doing a club a favor by playing for them," he said, according to Reuters. “I will see who I need to keep and see who I need to bring in. They've got that chance between now and the end of the season to prove that they want to play for a great giant of a club like Tottenham Hotspur.
"Over a period of time there will always be changes -- you're going to need new personnel, you're going to have players who perhaps want to move on. I want players here who want to play for the club -- and they've got from now until the end of the season to show that they're playing for the club and not themselves.”
Such public chastening of his players is certainly bold, although plenty within the game have labelled it rather unwise. While questioning his players’ futures, he also appears rather confident about his own, despite repeated speculation linking Louis van Gaal and Frank de Boer with the job this summer.
The Chelsea defeat dropped Spurs four points behind Manchester City, who have three games in hand, and two further back of Arsenal, who have one extra match to play, in the battle for the final Champions League place. It may well now have to be success in the Europa League that saves Sherwood’s job. Despite a north London derby with Arsenal on Sunday, Sherwood is expected to field a strong side against Benfica.
Having agonizingly missed out on the Portuguese Liga, Europa League and the Portuguese Cup last season, Jorge Jesus’ side have rebounded impressively and sit seven points clear of Sporting Lisbon at the top of the league. Benfica are unbeaten since the start of November, winning 21 times and drawing twice since, while they have conceded just two goals in their last 14 outings. Their form makes incredibly impressive reading, especially considering they lost one of their key men, Nemanja Matic, to Chelsea in the January transfer window.
Benfica fans will hope to avoid further sales, with several players having been linked with Premier League clubs. Center-back Ezequiel Garay has regularly been cited as a target for Manchester United, as has talented Argentine attacking midfielder Nicolas Gaitan. Young winger Lazar Markovic has previously been linked to Tottenham, with Chelsea and Liverpool thought to be monitoring him closely.
While Benfica look to have no new fitness concerns, Tottenham have lost Michael Dawson to a hamstring injury. Mousa Dembele remains a doubt and Vlad Chiriches, Etienne Capoue and Erik Lamela all remain sidelined. There is some positive news, however, with Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen back in training.
Where to watch: The first leg of the Europa League last-16 tie will kick off at 4.05 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 2, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go and in Spanish on ESPN3.