André Villas-Boas has warned Jermain Defoe that he is likely to remain on the fringes of Tottenham's first team for the rest of the season despite having just become the club's all-time record goalscorer in European competition.
Defoe went past Martin Chivers' landmark tally of 22 goals with a firmly hit penalty in Thursday's 2-1 Europa League victory over FC Sheriff, a result that confirmed Spurs's place in the knockout stage of the competition with two Group K matches to spare. It was a momentous achievement for the 31-year-old. Yet ahead of Newcastle's visit to White Hart Lane on Sunday he is likely to return to the bench, with Roberto Soldado coming back in as the lone striker in Villas-Boas's favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.
Indeed, Defoe has started just once in the Premier League this season with all of his other starts, and total of nine goals – three more than Soldado has secured – coming in the Europa League and the Capital One Cup. It would be natural, therefore, if he was feeling frustrated and decided that with the World Cup looming it would be wise to move in January. Villas-Boas has insisted, however, that he has no desire to sell Defoe and, equally, will not give the player more opportunities to shine just because of what he achieved against Sheriff.
"He has scored nine goals, which has been a great start for him, but it [breaking Chivers' record] doesn't change our perspective regarding his position in the team," said the Spurs manager. "We've been rotating and given opportunities to players playing in the Europa League to break into the Premier League team. Jermain played against West Ham, then we went back to Soldado playing in the Premier League. We're extremely happy with both and it's just a question of deciding what is better on a specific date regarding our strategy."
Asked if appreciated that Defoe's World Cup place – he was selected in England's 28-man squad for the upcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany – could be jeopardised by a lack of Premier League starts, Villas Boas added: "I'm not sure about Roy Hodgson's selection process. From what I've seen, he's been counting on Defoe and he has been included in all call-ups this season.
"Obviously, everyone wants to get matches in the Premier League, but we've found comfort playing in this system and three strikers [Soldado, Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor] are competing for one position. So it's not easy for any of them."
Meanwhile, Villas-Boas has confirmed that Hugo Lloris will start against Newcastle, exactly a week after the goalkeeper suffered a blow to the head in a challenge with Romelu Lukaku at Goodison Park. Controversy followed regarding Villas-Boas's decision to allow Lloris to finish the game, with the manager angrily defending his actions afterwards and insisting the Frenchman had suffered no adverse effects as a result of the collision. Lloris was, however, left out of the match with Sheriff, with Brad Friedel coming in as his replacement.