Spurs' Vertonghen looks well beyond Newcastle horizon
By Ian Winrow, AFP
February 12, 2014, 12:04 am TWN
LONDON -- If soccer players are supposed to “take one game at a time,” then Jan Vertonghen risks angering Tottenham Hotspur manager Tim Sherwood by looking well beyond Wednesday trip's to face Newcastle United.
Instead Vertonghen has already identified the clash with Liverpool next month as the defining game of Tottenham's season.
The weekend victory over Everton moved Sherwood's side back up to fifth where they sit three points behind Liverpool in fourth spot ahead of the latest round of matches.
That has revived Spurs' hopes of forcing their way into the top four and claiming a place in next season's Champions League.
But Belgian international central defender Vertonghen knows they must improve on the performance that secured a narrow 1-0 win over Everton if they are to maintain their challenge.
And he has identified then trip to Anfield to face Brendan Rodgers's side as the game that could make or break the north London club's ambitions.
“We probably need a win, so we will go for that. It was a bad day for us when we lost 5-0 at home to Liverpool in December but that game didn't reflect our strengths compared with theirs.”
Sherwood has overseen an impressive improvement in form since he succeeded Andre Villas Boas as manager, with his side securing six wins from nine league games.
“We need to work on our shape and our movement and then the sharpness will be there,” Vertonghen said. “Tim now has a chance to work on our shape. Until now, he has done a very good job. The club and the players believe in him.”
Emmanuel Adebayor has been the major beneficiary of the change in manager and his match-winner against Everton was his seventh goal in 11 games since being restored to the squad by Sherwood.
Vertonghen added: “Adebayor is back and has been unbelievable. Just one player coming in can sometimes affect the team.”
Meanwhile Alan Pardew has targeted Manchester United boss David Moyes, although he insists it's nothing personal, as the Newcastle manager hit back at “insulting” claims from pundits that his side are coasting, with little to play for between now and the end of the season.
Pardew has set his sights on Newcastle finishing above soon to be deposed champions United for the first time in the Premier League.
Even though the Old Trafford club continue to struggle under Moyes, Pardew claims it would still be a major scalp to overhaul the team immediately above them in seventh place and four points ahead of them going into the final 13 league games of the campaign.
“People say our season is over, which is an insult to our professionalism,” said Pardew.
“We have a professional incentive — and it irritates me as manager of Newcastle when I hear different.”
Pardew insisted Newcastle aren't mathematically clear of the fight for survival until they collect the three points needed to reach the 40-point mark that normally assures Premier League clubs of avoiding relegation.
However, with another top flight season all-but secure, a tilt at gaining a Europa League spot has been all but ended by a run of six defeats in eight games.
Newcastle have failed to find the net in four of their last five outings, and must convince supporters they aren't just marking time until May.
Pardew added: “Manchester United are directly above us, that's why I've picked them out, not because of David Moyes, who is a big pal of mine.
“When we finished fifth two seasons ago, what was the incentive then? There was a point in that season, in February when everyone had written us off saying the season was over, but look what happened.”