Mind the gap, urges AVB

Andre Villas-Boas has urged Tottenham to seize the initiative and open a gap on their rivals so that they do not slip away and miss out on Champions League football again.

Tottenham travel to Sunderland today looking to cement their place in the top four after an inconsistent first half of the season under their Portuguese manager.

Despite being fourth in the table, the Londoners have squandered nine points by conceding late goals in a season characterised by nervy home displays.

Wary that just five points separate Tottenham from eighth-place Stoke, Villas-Boas knows his team must go on a winning run to separate themselves from the likes of Everton, Arsenal and West Brom, who lurk just below them.

“At the moment everyone is packed together, which is very dangerous,” the Tottenham manager said.

“We have to continue our progress to hopefully open a gap between us and the rest of the teams.”

Spurs have won five away games, the latest one being Saturday’s 4-0 crushing of Aston Villa. In Sunderland, Villas-Boas knows Spurs will come up against one of the league’s form teams, however.

The Black Cats have flirted with the relegation zone for much of the season, but they are now seven points clear after wins over Reading, Southampton and champions Manchester City.

Villas-Boas said: “Their form is improving. They have come out a little bit from that pressure zone and in some ways we would have been better off playing them a couple of weeks ago.

Gareth Bale was key to Tottenham’s victory at Villa Park, where he put in a stunning display to leave with the matchball following a classy hat-trick. Reports in Spain continue to circulate that Bale will move to Real Madrid in January, but Villas-Boas has repeatedly stated he will not sell the talented winger.

The Portuguese is more likely to ship out David Bentley, Heurelho Gomes, Tom Huddlestone and Carlo Cudicini in January. And he’s sticking to his line that there will be no new arrivals in the transfer window. “It is very unlikely that we would do anything.”

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