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AVB: I hope we can top blues

ONE year ago today, Andre Villas-Boas was sacked by Chelsea. But this morning his Tottenham team stand above the Blues in the table following yesterday's pulsating 2-1 win over Arsenal.

Tottenham stretched their unbeaten run to 12 matches by taking the north London derby spoils thanks to strikes from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.

The victory moves Spurs into pole position in the race for Champions League qualification. Their fans will savour the fact they are seven points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, but perhaps of more importance to Villas-Boas is the two-point gap his team have opened up over his former employers.

The Portuguese will not say it publicly, but he must be driven inside by a determination to get one over on Roman Abramovich, who cut short his three-year "project" on this day last year.

Given that Spurs have a difficult run-in, which includes a trip to Stamford Bridge, Villas-Boas last night played down the idea that his men could finish third and above his former employers.

"It's extremely difficult," Villas-Boas said. "The margin is very, very slim for them, we hope we can (stay above them), but it will be extremely difficult.

"We have seen so many shifts in league position recently towards the end of the season, particularly among the big teams involved in Europe, so you can't really stop.

"You just have to continue. Confidence makes a difference."

Part of Villas-Boas' reluctance to brand his team as the best in the capital can be put down to the way Spurs collapsed towards the end of last season.

He was not to blame for that collapse – he was sitting on a beach in Mauritius after receiving a cheque and a P45 from Abramovich – but many of the players who surrendered that 10-point lead over Arsenal remain at White Hart Lane.

But despite the loss of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, Tottenham have improved so much over the last 12 months, while Arsenal do not possess the same strength and Chelsea have been in turmoil for most of the season.

Villas-Boas is too clever to declare his team sealed Champions League qualification with yesterday's win, but he does acknowledge taking the three points is likely to deal a blow to Arsenal's morale.

"It's not a big enough margin yet for us to be completely safe," the Portuguese said.

"What we think is it can have a direct effect on their motivation, and on ours too obviously.

"We are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they are in a negative spiral in terms of results. And to be out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult.

"Obviously we will approach the Liverpool game (on Sunday) with extreme care, they are on a good run too and play excellent football too."

Emmanuel Adebayor and Mousa Dembele had to come off yesterday, but Villas-Boas said both will be fit for Thursday's Europa League game against Inter Milan.