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Tottenham need one point for Europa League qualification

Tim Sherwood

The north London club must hold off the challenge of Manchester United to clinch a return to European competition in what is set to be Tim Sherwood's final game in charge.

Tottenham need a point to be assured of a Europa League spot when they face Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season.

Sixth place and Europa League qualification for a fourth consecutive season would belong to the north London club if they avoid defeat at White Hart Lane on Sunday, with Manchester United three points behind them, though it would have been secured earlier if Spurs had done better than a chastening 2-0 loss at West Ham.

It is set to be Tim Sherwood's last game as manager. He was handed an 18-month contract when he succeeded Andre-Villas Boas in December but, despite keeping Tottenham on course for a top-six finish, the former England midfielder will be replaced at the end of the season.

Heavy Premier League defeats against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as a Europa League exit at the hands of Benfica, harmed Sherwood's prospects of staying on in the role and several names have been linked with his post.

Louis van Gaal was initially touted for the role but is now set for Manchester United, while his fellow Dutchman, Ajax boss Frank de Boer, claims to have been contacted by Tottenham - which the club denied - and Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino is also a target.

Sherwood has faced difficult circumstances and a significant injury list - the West Ham reverse ended a four-match unbeaten run that included three victories.

Younes Kaboul is suspended for the clash with Villa following his red card last time out but fellow defender Jan Vertonghen (ankle) could feature after turning out for the Under-21s and midfielder Etienne Capoue (ankle) could return.

Villa boss Paul Lambert has conceded to being uncertain over his own future, although there has not been a clamour for the Scot's position comparable to Sherwood's.

A 3-1 win over Hull City belatedly secured Villa's top-flight status but Wednesday night's trip to Manchester City saw them ship four goals on the road for a second consecutive match.

Although Lambert - a former Scotland international and Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund during his playing days - described staying up as one of his greatest achievements in football, he is realistic about Villa's plight.

"I think the football club needs investment," he told the press. "It's punching you right in the face. Any club that wins a European Cup and has won leagues before and got a massive fanbase should never be in this position."

For now, Lambert's youthful and patched-up squad must soldier on for 90 minutes more. They could be handed a boost in attack as Gabriel Agbonlahor battles to return from a knee problem, while Marc Albrighton (groin) could bolster Lambert's midfield. Strike duo Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak are long-term absentees.

 

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