Redknapp to test top-four credentials against Villa

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The Independent Online

Come May it will be 20 years since Tottenham last finished a top-flight campaign nestled smugly among the best four sides in the country.

The nine goals they plundered against Wigan on Sunday served emphatic note of their potential to reclaim a place in the elite, and the coveted Champions League spot that goes with it, but that ambition will be more sternly examined this evening at Villa Park, where the home side have designs of their own on a top- four finish.

Tottenham and Villa are separated by three points, although such is Spurs' goal difference in the wake of their Wigan bashing they are likely to stay in fourth whatever happens today. Manchester City, who host Hull, are a further place and a point behind Villa. Given the problems surrounding Liverpool, this season would appear the chance to finally break up the big four.

"Man City will still be favourites, they've got a fantastic squad of players, but us and Villa are still trying to push into that area," said Harry Redknapp. "One or two feel they have a chance to push the top four and break into that group. We could go second with a win, that would be nice, but it's where you finish at the end of the season that counts – 25 points at this stage is a good total but we've got to keep building on that."

The Villa game opens a week that will provide further evidence of Spurs' true standing. "You don't have a lot of time to dwell," said Redknapp. "When I was driving home from the Wigan game I was already thinking about the Villa game. We have a very tough week with Villa, Manchester United in the Carling Cup and then Everton."

To that end, in contrast to his counterpart at the Emirates, the Spurs manager is relaxed about players looking beyond May. While Arsène Wenger argues that players should concentrate on club duty, Redknapp feels the prospect of international glory will help bring out the best in his cosmopolitan squad over the months to come.

"It's a dream come true for every player to go to the World Cup, surely?" he said. "It's part of my job to worry about the players and I couldn't sit here and say I couldn't give a monkeys about them. That's not me.

"But I don't think I even have to tell them that as obviously at the back of their minds they want to do so well this year that it will carry them through to the World Cup. We've got a load of players who could go."

Jermain Defoe is the one of the leading candidates and Martin O'Neill is well aware of the danger the striker poses his side today. "I wouldn't disagree with Harry Redknapp that he may well be as good a finisher as anybody in the Premiership," said the Villa manager.

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