• Premier League

Derby start for Defoe on the cards

ESPN staff
March 1, 2013
Jermain Defoe is in line to replace out-of-form Emmanuel Adebayor in the Tottenham starting line-up © PA Photos

Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe is set to return to action in Sunday's North London derby against Arsenal at White Hart Lane.

Defoe has been out of action since limping off with an ankle injury in the game against West Bromwich Albion at the start of February, yet manager Andre Villas-Boas has hinted he is considering handing him a start against Arsenal in place of the out-of-form Emmanuel Adebayor.

"Jermain trained with the team these last two days, so hopefully he is going to be available for selection," said Villas-Boas. "Tomorrow he will train once again and he is definitely a big contender for the team. It is good to have him back."

Villas-Boas was keen to downplay the significance of Sunday's clash with Arsene Wenger's men, but he accepts a victory against the Gunners could be decisive in Tottenham's race for a top-four finish.

"I don't think it will all be decided on what happens this weekend," he said. "A seven-point difference if we manage to win is still recoverable for a team like Arsenal. If it comes to one-point difference, things get closer to us. It's all very tight together still.

"We were glad last week to build a difference with Everton to nine points. It's still not enough, but we just have to keep going. Our focus is on building gaps with the teams behind us.

"We are on a good run of form and approach this game in a more confident manner than Arsenal. We had a good month in February and we want to extend that until mid-April as that will mean we can reach our objectives.

"All of us appreciate the significance of the game on Sunday and for our fans. It would be tremendous to finish ahead of Arsenal. The rivalry is fantastic. There is a demand to have success in this fixture, it means a lot to everyone in north London. It is a special game, definitely.

"We have to play this game with lots of emotion and emotion will decide this game rather than any tactical preparation."

A defeat against Arsenal at the back end of last season sparked a collapse that ultimately cost Tottenham a place in the Champions League this season, and while Villas-Boas was not in charge of the team suffering heartache last May, he hopes the pain from the disappointment will inspire his players a year on.

"I think it serves as an example for these players what can happen," he said when asked about the danger of another late season dip in form.

"They lived through it, they went through it. It serves for me also as a leader to learn. They felt it more deeply for me and you can see recently that it makes a difference in their performances."

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