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Premier League

Jan Vertonghen admits Tottenham 'will have to improve' if they are to qualify for Champions League

Finishing in the top four looks a tough task

Tottenham Hotspur are running to keep pace with the top four, but with Liverpool starting to pull away, Jan Vertonghen knows that they might have to catch someone else instead.

Although Manchester City are the closest team to Spurs, just four points ahead of them, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have played two fewer league games. City, most probably, will finish strongly. If Tottenham chase down one team and beat them to a Champions League place, the likeliest could even be Arsenal.

“You don’t only have to watch Liverpool,” said Vertonghen, after Spurs beat Cardiff City 1-0 on Sunday night. “I think there are other teams who can drop down so we are just watching fourth place, no matter who we catch.”

Tottenham play Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool this month, and Vertonghen admitted that Spurs “will have to improve, especially as we’re playing better sides this month.”

Wins against any of those teams would drag them back towards Tottenham – Sherwood said he would like to “mess up” the other team’s seasons -  and the immediate focus is on Saturday evening’s trip to Stamford Bridge, to face Jose Mourinho’s title chasers. Vertonghen, who came to Spurs to play elite games like this, is looking forward to it. “For both of us, it’s a very important game. We want a good result and they want to win, obviously so it’ll be a nice game. I’m looking forward to it.”

The game that stands out the brightest, though, is not this weekend but next. Tottenham host Arsenal in the season’s third north London derby. If Spurs beat Chelsea they will be just three points behind going into that game at White Hart Lane. Arsenal are just starting to stutter, having won two of their last six league games. There were tight chases for Champions League places between Spurs and Arsenal in the last two seasons, and there might just be another one this time.

If Tottenham have a good March, and a good end to the season, much will hinge on Roberto Soladado, the £24million striker who scored just his sixth league goal of the season – and his second from open play – on Sunday. Vertonghen said that Soldado “needed” the goal, and there is a hope that he can take this new confidence into these big games.

“Of course, he’s a striker and he wants to score,” Vertonghen said. “We know he is doing a lot of work for us without scoring goals but for himself and for the press and for everyone, it’s good that he scored a goal. It keeps the pressure off him. We all like him and we know he is doing well. He has had some bad luck and that’s why we were all happy for him.”