Andre Villas-Boas’s side take on the Black Cats knowing that even a victory may not be enough to secure that all important Champions League berth.
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Andre Villas-Boas admits Tottenham go into the final game of the season against Sunderland bracing themselves for yet more Champions League disappointment on Sunday.
After appearing secure in the top four when they were seven points clear of Arsenal in March, Villas-Boas’s side welcome Sunderland to White Hart Lane knowing even a victory may not be enough to clinch a place in Europe’s premier club competition.
Lying fifth, a point behind Arsenal, Spurs could again be left frustrated 12 months after being denied entry to the Champions League despite finishing fourth when Chelsea claimed the final spot as holders of the trophy.
To add to their frustration, a win against Sunderland will mean they end the season with 72 points, the club’s highest ever Premier League tally.
“In the past it would have been enough to make it,” said Villas-Boas.
“It would have been enough apart from the 2007/08 season when the fourth-placed team (Liverpool) finished with 76 points.
“I think what it represents, if we don’t achieve it, is one more sign that you have to push up to get closer to that group.
“Whenever that group is competing for titles, the reference of points will be higher and you have to improve and you have to get more points the next time.
“Our step at the moment is to be into the Champions League, probably not title contenders but we hope to be competitive next season if we manage to do things properly in the summer.
“You have to strengthen for next season to get a higher tally of points.”
If Tottenham are to improve their challenge next season, they will have to strengthen and Villas-Boas admitted he is an admirer of David Villa, the Barcelona striker who has been linked with the north London club.
“He is one of the world’s best strikers,” Villas-Boas said. “You can see that speculation is growing but at the moment we are focused on trying to get fourth spot.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio is already looking ahead to pre-season after insisting there can be no repeat of his team’s narrow escape from relegation.
The Wearside club were only guaranteed an eighth consecutive campaign in the top flight by Wigan’s midweek defeat at Arsenal, which condemned the Latics to the Championship.
Sunderland have taken eight points in the six games since Di Canio took charge at the end of March to help them keep out of the bottom three, and the former West Ham forward said: “We’re safe, but there are no celebrations. The hard work starts now.
“We have a chance to build something for the future with the players we’ve got, and others that will join in the summer, but it won’t be easy.
It’s a new start. We’ll have the players back in for a couple of days next week before their holidays, then we start looking towards pre-season.
“That first month together as a squad before the season starts is crucial. You’re with each other morning, afternoon, morning, afternoon and you really get to know each other.
“It’s a crucial time for a manager when shaping the squad.”
Sunderland, who have won once in 29 years at White Hart Lane, are without suspended duo Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner. Skipper Lee Cattermole and defenders Wes Brown and Titus Bramble are all sidelined through injury.
Di Canio, who has threatened to cut his players’ summer holidays short if they fail to perform in their final match of the season, is unlikely to blood any of the young Sunderland players he has named on the bench in recent weeks.
Venue White Hart Lane, Sunday 4pm
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Last season Tottenham 1 Sunderland 0
Referee Andre Marriner
This season’s matches 23 Y72, R4, 3.30 cards per game
Subs from Friedel, Naughton, Caulker, Carroll, Livermore, Huddlestone, Holtby, Sigurdsson, Defoe, Fredericks, Archer
Doubtful Assou-Ekotto (knee)
Injured Gallas (calf, Aug), Kaboul (thigh, Aug), Sandro (knee, Aug)
Form guide WDWDWD
Disciplinary record Y54 R2
Leading scorer Bale 20
Subs from Westwood, Rose, Kilgallon, Vaughan, Mangane, Bramble, Marrs, Mandron, Laidler, Egan, Noble, Reed
Doubtful Bramble (calf)
Injured Cattermole (knee, Aug), Fletcher (ankle, Aug), Brown (knee, Aug)
Suspended Gardner (last of two), Sessègnon (last of three)
Inelegible Rose (terms of loan)
Form guide DDLWWL
Disciplinary record Y59 R2
Leading scorer Fletcher 11
Sunderland have lost nine of their 11 Premier League matches away at Tottenham (W1 D1 L9).
The Black Cats failed to score in both of last season’s encounters with Spurs and lost 2-1 to them at the Stadium of Light in December.
They have won just one of their last eight matches against Tottenham.
Spurs currently have 69 points coming in to their final game of the season. Their best points tally in a Premier League season before this campaign was 70, set in 2009-10.
Against Stoke, Tottenham recorded their 10th away win in the league this season which is the most they have managed since winning 12 in 1984-85. In that win they also equalled their record of scoring two or more goals in six successive Premier League away games.
It was the first match they had won in the league without a goal from Gareth Bale since 1 January (3-1 v Reading).
Tottenham have now scored 25 goals in the last 20 minutes of matches this season – more than any other team in the top flight.
Emmanuel Adebayor has scored in consecutive top-flight fixtures for the first time since May 2012.
Spurs have scored a league-high 15 goals from outside the box this season, with Gareth Bale scoring eight of these (another league-high).
Only Teddy Sheringham (21 in 1993-94) has scored more goals in a single Premier League season for Tottenham than Gareth Bale has so far this term (20).
Sunderland have scored in all six of Paolo Di Canio’s games in charge. They had failed to score in four of the previous 11 matches prior to his arrival.
The Black Cats are without their top three scorers for the rest of the season. Steven Fletcher (11), Stephane Sessegnon (seven) and Craig Gardner (six) have scored 24 of the club’s 41 league goals this season (58%).
However, striker Danny Graham has now gone 1034 minutes in all competitions without finding the back of the net.
Their last three goals have come from defenders.
No side has scored fewer goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches (three) or in the final 15 minutes of matches (five) than Sunderland this season.
They have won eight points (W2 D2 L2) in their six Premier League games under new manager Paolo Di Canio. The Black Cats had won just three points (D3 L5) in their final eight games under Martin O’Neill.