But Sherwood thinks beating Barclays Premier League title hopefuls City at White Hart Lane on Wednesday would galvanise Tottenham's charge towards a top-four finish.
The Spurs boss admitted he did not want to show his squad a rerun of their November hammering, a result that accelerated former manager Andre Villas-Boas' exit.
"You might scare them, when you want to motivate them," Sherwood on Tuesday. "I just think they need to use that for themselves.
"Games boil down to individual errors, decision making, and if we win enough of our personal battles out there tomorrow we'll make a good account of ourselves.
"Anyone who finishes above Man City will win the league.
"It would be huge, huge belief if we could come out of this with three points.
"The players would know we could compete.
"In their minds they think they can, but it's one thing thinking you can and another actually doing it.
"That's what we'll be telling them tomorrow.
"I trust those boys to be able to give us a positive performance and result tomorrow. So let's go and prove we can do that."
Sherwood feels striker Emmanuel Adebayor will be pivotal to Tottenham's chances of securing Champions League football for next season.
Out of favour under Villas-Boas, Adebayor has been a central figure for Sherwood.
And the former Blackburn midfielder does not expect that to change.
Backing Adebayor to shine against his former club, Sherwood said: "He's been great ever since I've come into this job.
"I've given him a platform to play and he's not let me down.
"It looks like he's enjoying his football and he surely will be up for this game tomorrow.
"There's no small and big games for Ade at the moment, he seems like he's motivated just as much for every game he plays.
"He is one of the top strikers in the Premier League in my opinion, and it's important that we keep giving him the service.
"He relies on the other players as well, and we're relying on him.
"So he'll be crucial for us to get where we want to be.
"At times he can be unplayable, I think a lot of centre-backs who have marked him will tell you that on his day he can be formidable.
"And long may that continue because at the moment he's proving very, very hard to mark."
Sherwood admitted Tottenham still have no plans to add to their squad in the January transfer window, but confirmed Lewis Holtby - linked with Borussia Dortmund - and Etienne Capoue will be allowed to leave, for the right offer.
"As I continually say we're not actively looking for anything," he said.
"Unless something drastic happens between now and the end of the window we won't be bringing anyone in.
"I like Lewis, he's a good lad, he's one of the best trainers we've got at the club.
"I understand, as I do with all players having played the game myself, they all want to play.
"And if they're not getting a lot of opportunities sometimes you have to be fair to the player, but first and foremost my job is to do what's right for the football club.
"I'm getting to know Etienne now as well so he's at the forefront of my mind at the moment.
"But we have got a lot of players in that midfield area and if an opportunity does arise, and if it's right for the club, then we will let players move on."