AVB confident of top-four finish

Marseille rejoined Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon

on 38 points with a 1-0 win over St Etienne on Sunday.

superbly headed home Rod Fanni’s cross on the stroke of

half-time to earn Marseille a fourth victory in their last five

league matches.

St Etienne, in contrast, have now earned just two points from

their last five matches and have gone from looking like genuine

title contenders to a side stuck in mid-table, 11 points adrift of

the pacesetters.

Valenciennes. meanwhile, bounced back from successive defeats

with a hard-fought 2-1 win over 10-man Evian.

Goals from Gregory Pujol and Jose Saez saw the hosts to a

victory that means they will spend the winter break inside the top


Saber Khelifa equalised for Evian in the first half but they had

no response to Valenciennes’ second goal, which came just moments

after the visitors had lost Djakaridja Kone to a 71st-minute red


In Sunday’s other game, Sochaux lost 2-0 at Toulouse to remain

stuck in the bottom three heading into the winter break.

Adrien Regattin put the hosts in front in the first half with a

superb free-kick and Emmanuel Riviere sealed the win five minutes

from time.

Despite the return of fit-again Gareth Bale, Villas-Boas’ team

rarely threatened Stoke’s goal on Saturday, and Asmir Begovic’s

only important save came in injury time when substitute Gylfi

Sigurdsson tested him with a close-range header.

The result means Tottenham head to Aston Villa on Boxing Day

outside the Champions League qualification places.

But Villas-Boas remains convinced his team are on course to

achieve their objective of a top-four finish.

He said: “I think we have enough to finish top four. It doesn’t

shift because of one result.

“There’s a lot of teams with 30 points so even if the teams get

a couple of points the difference is minimal. The Premier League is

like that.

“The team that sits third the other day now sits sixth or

seventh in the league.”

Stoke, meanwhile, are now eight matches unbeaten for the first

time since they earned promotion to the Premier League.

Potters boss Tony Pulis, however, is not getting carried


“We still need 14 or 15 points to stay up,” the Welshman


“That will always be our priority – staying up.

“Then we’ll try to get a little bit better and better.”

Villas-Boas had praise for Stoke after the game.

“I totally respect Stoke,” he said.

“What they have achieved this season is tremendous because it

gives credit to Tony Pulis’ work. You don’t expect to play Stoke

and for them to take the game easily.

“I admire other types of football. But you have to respect them.

It’s not easy when you give so much possession to the opponent and

you have to defend but all credit to them and their work.”