Adebayor's Gunners history can fire us up, says AVB

Spurs manager plans to put his striker's bitter past with Arsenal to use in derby

Andre Villas-Boas wants to use Emmanuel Adebayor's bitter history with Arsenal to spark Tottenham in tomorrow's potentially explosive north London derby at the Emirates.

The Spurs manager is ready to give the striker a rare start against his former club and is confident the 28-year-old will be fired up to make an impact.

"I suggest to make the most of it we can use individuals' motivations and that is why we used Adebayor also in the game versus [Manchester] City last week," Villas-Boas said. The Spurs manager gave Adebayor his first Premier League start of the season last week against City – albeit in a match his side lost. The Togo player scored for Tottenham against Arsenal last season and is still given a hard time by their fans after his acrimonious departure from the Emirates to City three years ago.

"These are things that you have to count on. But hopefully it can have an positive effect... but it can [also] have a negative effect. So last year he scored from the penalty spot and had a good game and this is the type of revolt and motivation for matches like this."

Jermain Defoe, another forward option for Villas-Boas, is struggling with a hamstring injury and has spent time training alone this week, so Villas-Boas may have little choice but to pitch in Adebayor.

Given Arsenal supporters' hostility towards Adebayor and how exposed the Emirates dug-out is to fans – Sir Alex Ferguson once said you need "tin helmets" there – the pitch is perhaps the safest place for Adebayor. After arriving from Monaco in 2006 his relationship with Arsenal supporters soured following speculation over his future. The bitterness boiled over when he moved to City and famously scored against his old team before sprinting the length of the pitch to taunt Arsenal fans.

Adebayor was on target for Togo in midweek but Villas-Boas has injury concerns over players who did not play during the international break. Defoe was wanted by Roy Hodgson for England's friendly in Sweden but was unfit to travel, while Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon also have hamstring problems. All three have been training on their own this week. Mousa Dembélé has been ruled out with a hip problem.

With City, Manchester United and Chelsea threatening to form a three-horse race for the title, Villas-Boas believes qualifying for the Champions League means finishing above Arsenal for the first time since 1995.

He said: "We have to. It's obvious that Man United, Man City and Chelsea are into a big running towards the title. We want to be able to bring one of those spots nearer to us, but it's difficult."

Villas-Boas, effectively writing off the chances of mounting the championship bid he was aiming for at the start of the season, added: "It's difficult for the title.

"It's better that it is three at the top as they are in competition and can lose more points and hopefully we can shorten the gap a bit to third and second spot."

The short-term goal is bragging rights in north London, with Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, outlining the importance of the derby to his manager.

"He keeps on mentioning it," said Villas-Boas. "You can't wear red in a situation like this. Not in the training ground. The meaning of it is quite special and all of us embrace it."

Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris has revealed his frustration at failing to establish himself as first choice under Villas-Boas.

The France goalkeeper said: "It's a bit tough. It is difficult to accept, but these types of questions need to be put to the manager. I will stay professional."