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Spurs boss hails ‘legend’ Defoe but admits he won’t be fit to face Dnipro

13:56 26 February 2014

Jermain Defoe will complete his move to Toronto FC this weekend.

Jermain Defoe will complete his move to Toronto FC this weekend.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Tim Sherwood says Jermain Defoe should be ranked among the best goalscorers in Tottenham’s history – but he admits the striker will not be fit to feature in his final game tomorrow.

Defoe has scored a total of 143 goals in his two spells at White Hart Lane and, having agreed a move to MLS Outfit Toronto FC in January, he will complete the transfer on Saturday.

Tomorrow’s Europa League tie at home against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk is the last time he will be eligible to play for the Lilywhites, but a hamstring injury has recently side-lined him – and he will not be available for selection on Thursday.

“Unfortunately he’s not fit,” said Sherwood. “He’ll be at the game to say his goodbyes at half-time, hopefully.

“Obviously you would argue that there’s Jimmy Greaves, but Jermain Defoe is possibly one of the best goalscorers this club’s ever seen. Let’s hope we can find another one like Jermain Defoe because he’s all about goals.

“Whenever he pulled on the Tottenham shirt he always played with his heart and spirit for the club and gave everything, and everyone appreciates his efforts here. He certainly will be a legend at the club.”

Asked to recount his favourite Defoe goal, Sherwood replied: “The best one for me would have been the Palace game [on January 11] – because I was the manager.”

Defoe’s departure only increases the pressure on £26million summer signing Roberto Soldado, who is in the middle of a barren spell and has failed to score in his last seven appearances.

“Robbie knows that his time’s come, and hopefully that is tomorrow,” said Sherwood. “He’ll be playing tomorrow and hopefully we can see him hitting the back of the net.

“We know what he can do. He’s a top player, otherwise he woouldn’t be at the club. Now’s the time for one to ricochet off his backside and go in.

“The confidence comes flooding back and then he can go on a run, which [Emmanuel] Adebayor’s had since I’ve come in. It would be handy if the two of them are scoring.”

In addition to Defoe, Sherwood will be without Etienne Capoue (ankle), Danny Rose (knee), Kyle Walker (hip), Vlad Chiriches (back) and Erik Lamela (back).

However, he is looking forward to welcoming Sandro back. The Brazilian midfielder was injured on December 15 in the 5-0 home defeat against Liverpool – Andre Villas-Boas’ last game in charge – and is therefore yet to play under Sherwood.

“We’ve been very careful with Sandro because he’s been out for long periods and, previously, when he’s been put back in too early he’s had a little niggle and he’s had to miss a few weeks,” said Sherwood.

“But he’s done more training than he’s ever done before so we’ve strengthened the injury and we’re hoping that he’s ready to go.

“It’s good to have Sandro back in the squad. He’s a great character around the dressing-room and he gives everything on the pitch and leaves nothing on the field. You know for sure he’s going to give you 100 per cent.

“He’s one who certainly relishes getting the ball back for the team so we’re looking forward to him starting.

“He’s not going to be 100 per cent fit but to give him the opportunity to play tomorrow would bring him nicely along the path to playing in some very big games that we’ve got coming up.”

Tottenham trail Dnipro 1-0 going into the second leg of their last-32 tie and, although he accepts that last week’s tie may have played a part in Sunday’s Premier League defeat at Norwich, Sherwood is anxious to overturn the deficit and progress on the continent.

“I wouldn’t use it as an excuse and I never have, but you’d have to say that the record [in the league] isn’t fantastic, both home and away, after home games and away games in Europe,” said the head coach. “The next result has not been great, so the facts suggest that - but I wouldn’t use it as an excuse myself.

“We still want to progress in this competition. It means a lot to us. We’re not blessed with a lot of trophies recently, and I think it’s an opportunity to progress in this competition and still fight for that fourth place.

“It is a long competition. The hardest one, you would have to say, on quality is the Champions League. But on endurance it surely must be the Europa League because you’re getting the drop-outs from the Champions League.

“We’ve still got some massive teams left so it’s a really tough one to win. It is sapping because you have all the games, but we’d rather have the games and worry about picking up the points after the games, in the league.

Sherwood added: “We realise that they [Dnipro] have got threats - they’ve got pace on the counter-attack. We didn’t learn as much as we would have liked about their defence [last week], but I’m hoping that we’ll learn a lot more tomorrow night because we’re going to try to get on the front foot and push them back and see how they defend.

“There’s no point in waiting until the last five minutes of the game and then deciding that we’re now going to come out and play. We need to come out and play from the start and hopefully we can put this to bed.”

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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