'We're praying' - Sherwood & Tottenham seek Europa League miracle v Benfica

The Premier League side have been crippled by injuries and have a mountain to climb in Lisbon as they trail Benfica by a two-goal margin following the 3-1 first-leg loss at home
Tim Sherwood's final three words in his press conference on Wednesday evening summed up the attitude in the Tottenham camp.

"We're praying tonight," said the Spurs boss without the cheeky glint in the eye that sometimes accompanies his more flippant comments.

Tottenham take on Benfica in the second-leg of their Europa League tie on Thursday not only having to turn around a 3-1 deficit from the first game at White Hart Lane, but needing to do so without a single available central defender in the first-team squad.

Jan Vertonghen is suspended while Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches are all sidelined through injury. Further up the pitch, injury has forced Emmanuel Adebayor to stay in London along with summer signings Erik Lamela and Paulinho.

It means Sherwood will have to play men out of position at the Estadio da Luz and the Londoners have travelled with an army of youth team players as young as 16 to make up the numbers.

"The kids won't play unless there's a need to," said Sherwood. "There's a time and a place to blood young talent. Unless we need to they won't be thrown into the lion's den because you could end up killing someone's career before it's even started.

"Some of these boys are apprentices. They're nowhere near ready to play in Tottenham’s first-team. We've got a crippling injury list back at home. It really is severe. It's needs must.

"We need players playing out of position. I'm going to have to try and find out who's best suited to switching into those positions and doing the job for Tottenham."

14/1 Tottenham are 14/1 with bet365 to progress past Benfica
Tottenham's exit from the Europa League would virtually end their season, with Sherwood having already given up on any chance of finishing in the top four of the Premier League and clinching a place in next season's Champions League.

In this historic stadium, he will again come up against Benfica coach Jorge Jesus, with whom he clashed on the touchline last week at White Hart Lane after the Portuguese celebrated his side's third goal by holding three fingers in the air.

Sherwood insists his spat with Jesus is 'over' and the 45-year-old is now focused on preventing a fourth successive defeat for his team in all competitions.

For many, recent results have proved that Sherwood is not up to the job and should be replaced in the summer by someone like Louis Van Gaal, who this week reiterated his desire to manage in the Premier League after the World Cup.

While many Spurs fans are ready to give up on the rest of the season, Sherwood and many of the Tottenham players will be fighting for their futures over the next two months.

"The season's still alive," Sherwood insisted. "The season's never dead. We've got to win every game possible. We're Tottenham Hotspur. Everyone sets out their season to try and win something but not every team achieves that, not even Tottenham."

And his expectations of his players for Thursday?

"To do themselves justice," he added. "That's all we can do. I think the players owe it to the 3,000 fans and those at home to give their utmost.

"We're praying tonight."