Tottenham head coach Tim Sherwood will have to lift his players for Sunday’s match against Southampton at White Hart Lane after the Lilywhites suffered an agonising exit from Europe in midweek.
The London side’s last hope of winning a trophy this season ended Thursday when they were knocked out of the Europa League after losing 5-3 on aggregate to Benfica. The Portuguese side won the first leg 3-1 at Spurs and went 4-1 up overall when defender Ezequiel Garay opened the scoring in the second leg in Lisbon.
Spurs midfielder Nacer Chadli then scored twice within a minute to give Sherwood’s side hope of a remarkable turnaround with over 10 minutes to go. The Lilywhites had chances to level the aggregate score before Benfica substitute Lima converted a penalty in stoppage time to make it 2-2 on the night and seal the Eagles’ place in the quarter-finals.
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"After the first goal, we all started to believe," Belgium international Chadli told his club’s official website. "We pushed and pushed and after the second goal, I really felt we could do it. It was such a shame they scored right at the end.
"I’d prefer not to score and for us to have gone through. It’s all about the team. All we can do now is move onto the next game, Southampton on Sunday. We have to go for it."
Tottenham (16-5-9) lost three of their last four matches in the Premier League and are now fifth in the table on 53 points with only eight matches to play and seemingly out of the race for a Champions League berth. They are seven points behind fourth-place Manchester City, who have three games in hand over Spurs.
Southampton (12-9-9) are three places and eight points adrift of Tottenham in the standings, but go into Sunday’s match on the back of successive victories over Crystal Palace and Norwich City.
Skipper Adam Lallana admits the Saints were not at their best against the relegation-threatened Canaries last weekend but insists his side will travel to north London with the aim of taking all three points.
"It wasn’t the greatest performance last weekend, but we got the job done and we’ll take that result and the confidence that comes with it into the game on Sunday against Tottenham which is a massive, winnable game for us," Lallana told his club’s official website.
"There’s a good feeling and good atmosphere there with a great crowd. The Tottenham fans get behind the team so it’s a real good atmosphere to play your football in, and we’re looking forward to it. As a footballer it’s one of the tougher grounds to go to. It’s one of the older more historic grounds where the crowd are on top of you so it’s nice to play in too."
Emmanuel Adebayor (ankle), Mousa Dembele (hamstring) and Younes Kaboul (knock) could all return for Tottenham after missing the trip to Benfica, while Jan Vertonghen is available again after suspension.
Southampton have injuries concerns over Morgan Schneiderlin (knee) and Guly Do Prado (pelvis).
Tottenham beat Southampton 3-2 at St Mary’s in December in what was Sherwood’s first match in charge. Lallana put the Saints in front after 13 minutes, but a goal from Adebayor and an own goal by Jos Hooiveld put Spurs ahead. Rickie Lambert equalised at the hour mark, before Adebayor got his second of the match five minutes later to complete the scoring.