ENGLAND

Arsenal handed warning over Bale's firepower ahead of Spurs clash

Villas-Boas says Tottenham star can blast past Arsenal and confirm his credentials as one of world's best players alongside Ronaldo and Messi

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 March, 2013, 4:00am
AFP

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Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has warned Arsenal that Gareth Bale will use today's crucial north London derby to prove he deserves to be ranked as one of the world's top three players.

Bale will be in the spotlight when Arsenal arrive at White Hart Lane for a potentially decisive moment in the battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Tottenham are in third place, four points clear of Arsenal in fifth, and a victory over their bitter rivals would be a blow to the Gunners' hopes of finishing in the Premier League's top four.

Tottenham will need another dominant display from Bale, who underlined his remarkable talent by inspiring Spurs to a 3-2 win at West Ham on Monday.

Bale scored twice at Upton Park, including a last-minute winner, to take his goal tally to 23 for club and country this season.

The 23-year-old's superb form has led to claims the Wales winger is now as influential as Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona playmaker Lionel Messi. Villas-Boas has no doubts about Bale's brilliance.

And he believes this weekend's clash is the perfect stage for the winger to showcase the electric pace and lethal finishing that has the likes of Real and Barcelona contemplating blockbuster bids in the close-season.

"He is world class and those two players [Messi and Ronaldo] are," Villas-Boas said.

"Gareth is showing the form to be at the level of those two players, who have won so much throughout their careers, including European trophies.

"He still has to achieve that and we hope he can achieve it with us. He is very down to earth."

Tottenham are unbeaten in the league since December 9. And although victory for Villas-Boas' side will move them seven points ahead of Arsenal with 10 games to go, the Portuguese coach believes that will still not guarantee Champions League qualification.

"We are on a good run of form and extremely confident, but I don't think [Champions League qualification] is going to rest on the result this weekend," he said.

"Seven points is still recoverable for a team like Arsenal. It's all very tight still."

While Bale clearly poses the greatest threat to Arsenal's bid to win at White Hart Lane for the first time since September 2007, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is adamant his side won't just focus on stopping the Welshman.

Wenger, who considered buying Bale from Southampton before his eventual move to Spurs, said: "We don't plan for anybody. It is always the same, focus on our strengths and forget about your opponent.

"There is nobody special that you least like to face. All players have different qualities."

Wenger, whose club have gone eight years without a trophy, can ill afford another defeat as he looks to rescue a traumatic campaign.

After crashing out of both domestic cup competitions and with their Champions League challenge all but over after a 3-1 defeat against Bayern Munich, Arsenal's only remaining goal is to finish in the top four.

Wenger said: "The game will have a psychological importance for the rest of the season."