Huddlestone targets Champions League spot as Arsenal come to the Lane

TOM Huddlestone believes Tottenham are still “right in the mix” for Champions League qualification ahead of Wednesday’s crucial north London derby against Arsenal.

Spurs sit three points behind Manchester City in the race to finish in the Premier League top four, and hold a game in hand on Roberto Mancini’s side, whose own aspirations suffered a severe setback with a 3-0 drubbing at Liverpool on Monday night.

Spurs visit the City of Manchester Stadium on May 10 in what is shaping up to be a repeat of last season’s crunch clash which qualified Spurs for the Champions League for the first time – but before then they travel to Chelsea on April 30, after Arsenal come to the Lane.

Spurs have a fine recent record against the Gunners, having won the corresponding fixture last year before they came back from 2-0 down to record a famous 3-2 win at the Emirates in November.

Midfielder Huddlestone sees the game against Arsenal as the first of three huge encounters for Spurs.

“We’re right in the mix, only three points behind City and we’ve still got to play them,” he said.

“We’ve still got to play Arsenal and Chelsea, and Manchester City’s the third game from the end of the season. That could be the vital game again, as it was last season,” added Huddlestone, who recovered from an ankle injury to make his first appearance for five months in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Stoke City at White Hart Lane. “Obviously with us being in fifth position at the minute we are outsiders, but we’ve still got to play teams above us, which is a good thing, and they’ve got to play each other – so they’ll be dropping points like that as well.

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“It seems to have worked out pretty much as it did last season, where the league’s pretty tight. But I think if we play like we did in the first half [against Stoke], we can beat any team playing like that.”

“There is a lot of belief in the team. We know we’ve got a great starting 11, seven great subs, and another three or four who aren’t even on the bench who would walk into a lot of Premier League teams.

“I said at the start of the season that in terms of squad strength, apart from maybe Manchester City, I don’t think we’re a million miles away from anybody else.

“Obviously City have thrown a lot of money at it but, man for man, we’ve got a lot of experience.”

Despite impressing alongside Luka Modric in Tottenham’s midfield against Stoke, Huddlestone is well aware that he faces a fight to retain a regular starting slot in central midfield, with Brazilian Sandro having played well alongside Modric in recent weeks – but the 24-year-old welcomes the competition for places.

He said: “Luka and Sandro have been doing very well but equally they’ve had to fight to stay in the team because JJ [Jermaine Jenas] and Wilson Palacios have been biting at their tails trying to get the shirt off them.

“But that’s great for our confidence. Competition is what it’s all about and that can only lead to greater things.”