Premier League

AVB has faith in Spurs squad

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Sun, 07 Apr 2013 09:03:00

Philippe Coutinho is targeting Europe next season after building up a quick understanding with Luis Suarez at Liverpool.

The Brazilian has made an impressive start to his Anfield career with two goals in five starts, while Suarez has found the net five times himself during that period.

"We always communicate in Spanish on the pitch," said Coutinho. "I spent six months in Spain so I can get by quite well.

"Suarez is a fantastic player and it's an honour to play with him. Together I hope we achieve great things for Liverpool.

"He's excellent, always on the move and that helps you to open the defence more easily. He speaks to me in Spanish. He's always asking me to improve my marking!"

The 20-year-old is also thankful to many of his team-mates for welcoming him since his January move from Inter.

"The South American players are always together at training and we go out for meals together," he added.

"I'm quite shy and having players like (Steven) Gerrard and Lucas (Leiva) making me feel welcome, that's a huge boost for me.

"Lucas has been like a father to me. He gave me all the information I needed on how the club worked."

The Reds still retain slim hopes of forcing their way into the top five in order to secure European football next season and Coutinho believes that is essential for a club of Liverpool's stature.

He said: "Liverpool must play for European trophies all the time. It's very important.

"We will do our utmost in the last few games to get the maximum points in order for us to reach the Europa League."

Hazard has been impressed by both players in his first season at Stamford Bridge, and has been surprised by the amount of criticism aimed at Torres.

"He must be one of the most criticised football players in football, yet he keeps the good work going. I'm impressed," said Hazard.

"People expect 10 goals from him every game. We are lucky to have two top-class forwards with him and Demba Ba. We must make the most of them."

Mata, meanwhile, was again in good form as Chelsea carved out a 3-1 lead over Rubin Kazan in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday, and Hazard has enjoyed forging an understanding with him.

"It's a pleasure to play alongside Juan. He's one of the best footballers in the Premier League," the Belgian said in the Daily Star Sunday.

"He has that ability to see and make the pass that others wouldn't and sees it faster than others.

"He deserves to be the Player of the Year. Definitely. There are others who have performed very well this season but he's my colleague, so I would back him."

The Premier League champions have consistently forked out large sums on players since Sheikh Mansour's takeover in 2008 and were rewarded last season with the title.

However, City trail local rivals United by 15 points in this term's championship battle ahead of Monday's Manchester derby and it has prompted speculation of another summer spending spree by Mancini.

The Italian is determined to improve his squad at the end of the season, but is hoping City can eventually be in a position to make only minimal changes on an annual basis.

"We are not like United," said Mancini.

"They have a big history and we need a lot of years to compete with this.

"We need to improve our team every year and in the summer we need to buy the players who can make the difference, important players that can improve our team.

"We have our targets in the summer and we are already working on them.

"I don't know how much money we can spend but in the past United did spend a lot of money to buy important players. Now they don't need to spend ?100million every year.

"United are a top team and they just need to buy one top player every year because they are strong.

"It is different for us. We need to do it this way and maybe in the next three or four years we need only buy one player in the summer because we have a strong team.

"It is impossible to say how much we will spend. We could find a player we need to spend only ?1m on.

"We want to spend less money if possible but every time we go to buy one player the price is high. We try to spend less but we can't."

Mancini also reiterated his view that Robin van Persie has made the difference in the title race after the Dutch striker opted to join United rather than City last summer.

The City boss added: "United improved their team and bought important players.

"They bought Van Persie, who has scored important goals. That's why they've won this title, not because they've played better than us.

"United are a good team but Van Persie has made a difference. They have good players, they have Rooney, Nani, Valencia, six or seven good strikers, and they've bought Van Persie who has scored 23 goals in total for them.

"Last year, in the end we won on goal difference. We deserved to win the title but we won on goal difference.

"But if we have the same team and instead you put Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa in United's team...We made a mistake. It can happen. We can't be perfect."

United are on course for a 20th top-flight title and sit 15 points clear of local rivals, and reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, ahead of Monday night's derby.

Ferguson is confident his squad will continue to develop and expects his team to be firmly in title contention again next term.

"We've got a lot of youth in the team, there's no doubt about that," said the Scot. "The record over the last 20 years tells you we're not going away. So I'd expect us without doubt to have a real good challenge next year.

"Plus we'll have players who are maturing nicely. Rafa [da Silva] has proved how much he's developed this season; the goalkeeper David de Gea's progress right through the season is absolutely superb and he'll get better next year. [Shinji] Kagawa will be a far better player next year, I'm certain about that.

"We have to deal with the fact that one or two players are getting older, but I think we're not so bad in terms of protecting most positions. So we're not going to go away, no doubt about that.

"Whether we can go on another run of three titles in a row, who's to say? But the material's there, it's a hard league, as we all know."

The United boss anticipates the usual suspects will be in the mix for the title next season and is predicting a return to top form for Chelsea, if Mourinho returns to the club to replace current interim manager Rafa Benitez.

Ferguson added: "You'd expect - if Jose goes back to Chelsea - a big challenge there.

"[Manchester] City won't go away, with the money they've got. And I think Arsenal will improve - there's some indication that Arsenal are building a better squad than people think and Tottenham have been progressing for a couple of years now.

"So it's a hard league to win, there's no doubt about that. But at this moment in time we just need to concentrate on winning the league this year."

Bale, who has scored 22 goals for Spurs so far this season, was carried off on a stretcher in the dying seconds of Thursday night's 2-2 Europa League quarter-final draw against Basle.

The Wales international could return in time for the Premier League clash with reigning champions Manchester City on April 21.

Spurs face Everton on Sunday ahead of the return leg against Basle in Switzerland before then but Villas-Boas believes his side will cope without Bale.

"We have suffered setbacks before and managed to jump out of them so lets wait and see," he said.

"We've had his absence before in different moments of the season and we had people stepping up to the game."

When asked if it was a chance for other players to come in and shine, the Portuguese replied: "I think so. When an injury happens to a player who has played most of the time it another player to step in.

"We have those players - [Gylfi] Sigurdsson has gone back to his goalscoring form, scoring two during the internationals and once against Basle and [Lewis] Holtby was also at a very, very good level."

Defender William Gallas and winger Aaron Lennon were also forced off with injuries in the draw with Basle but, like Bale, Villas-Boas expects to have them both back in contention sooner rather than later.

He said: "Due to the postponement of the Chelsea game most of the players will be back soon enough to play the remaining six games."

The trio of injuries mean Villas-Boas' squad will be pushed to the limits as they search for both Europa League success and a top-four finish in the Premier League.

But the former Chelsea manager reckons he has enough quality at his disposal that he will be able to continue his policy of rotating his squad whenever possible.

"We have a very, very strong squad and as you can see we rotate quite frequently and the quality of squad allows us to that," he said.

"We will rotate at Everton and have fresh legs coming in, with injuries we have the opportunities for another couple of people.

"We have used it [rotation] a lot, you have seen us rotate goalkeepers in Europa League ties and rotate central defenders in Premier League and Europa League games.

"You try and use the fresh legs to have the squad balanced and ready for the Sunday game - you always benefit because fresh legs are as important as players who are regular starters."

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