Tottenham have to finish above rivals Arsenal to secure Champions League football, says Andre Villas-Boas


Andre Villas-Boas revealed he receives regular reminders from Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy about the significance of Saturday’s north London derby and shared his belief that his side are fighting Arsenal for a single Champions League place.

Spurs have not ended a campaign higher than their north London rivals since 1995 and blew a 10-point lead over Arsenal last season, eventually losing third spot to the Gunners and missing out on Europe’s top competition because it was won by Chelsea.

Two days before the first derby of the campaign, at Emirates Stadium, Spurs are one point above Arsene Wenger’s team but the form of both sides is fragile. Villas-Boas believes Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea might already be too difficult to catch, effectively leaving Spurs, Arsenal and the other challengers to fight for a single Champions League place.

“Can we finish above them? We have to,” said Villas-Boas. “From what I see, City and Chelsea are in the race for the title. We want to bring one of those spots closer to us but it’s difficult as these clubs have other resources.

“Neither we nor Arsenal are where we want to be — the position in the League doesn’t suit either of us. This time last year, we were higher up the table and had our poor period towards the end. We have both shown we can do better, though, and there is still time.

“I’ve been getting used to this derby for the last two weeks. The staff speak about it and the chairman keeps on mentioning it. It’s normal and you have to embrace it. It’s part of the greater culture of the game and it means a lot for both teams.

“I remember well from when I was Porto manager the games against Benfica. It was not a local derby but it was the ‘clasico’ of the Portuguese league. It was full of passion and people get ready to play a game like that. I’ve certainly felt the same thing this week.

“You understand the importance of it and the passion is very high. It is a game that represents only three points in the League but the history of the north London derby means that it is about more than that.”

Spurs will be without Mousa Dembele, who has not played for his club since October 7 because of a hip injury sustained while playing for Belgium, although Villas-Boas believes there is a 50-50 chance the midfielder could be ready for the Europa League tie against Lazio in Rome next Thursday.

Kyle Walker, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe are also injury doubts. The trio missed England’s friendly defeat in Sweden last night and trained away from the rest of the group yesterday but Villas-Boas hoped they would be able to link up again with their team-mates today. Midfielder Sandro did not play for Brazil in their friendly against Colombia in New Jersey but still faces a transatlantic flight only two days before a lunchtime kick-off in the Premier League.

The resources of the Premier League’s top three far outstrip those of Spurs and Arsenal but Villas-Boas is convinced it is possible to bridge the gap. “We had great games against all three of the top teams and led in all of them but ended up losing in two,” he said. “What’s important is to gain regular points but, against these teams, it’s incredibly difficult. We’ve done it against United and we want to do it better next time against City and Chelsea.

“Arsenal’s current position is irrelevant because last season they had a poor start and clinched third spot by picking up points at the decisive moment of the season, so it’s wrong to condemn teams on a weekly basis. The League is so tight for these spots. We’re nearer to Arsenal than we were in the past but it is still a step up and is where we want to be in the future.”

Meanwhile, Steven Caulker insists he will have fully recovered for Saturday’s derby after playing 75 minutes for England in their 4-2 friendly defeat by Sweden in Stockholm. The Spurs centre-half, who scored on his international debut last night after a full game against Manchester City last weekend, said: “It’s a massive match. I need to get my rest and look forward to it. I’ve been used to playing in Europe. We play a lot away and travel back — I’ll rest and look forward to the game.”

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
peopleActress tells men: 'It's your issue too'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam