Bale: CL return crucial for Spurs
Spurs upset the odds to pip Manchester City to fourth place in the Premier League last season and have reaped the rewards this year by reaching the Champions League quarter-finals before exiting the competition after a 5-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid. Harry Redknapp's side proved their credentials as one of the continent's best teams by dispatching European heavyweights AC Milan and Inter Milan on their way to making the last eight, but their place in next year's Champions League is far from assured. With seven league games left, Spurs are three points behind fourth-placed City and although they have a game in hand, they face tough fixtures away to Liverpool, Chelsea and City, as well as a north London derby against Arsenal at White Hart Lane, before the end of the season. The future of several key players, including Bale, could rest on whether Spurs make the top four, and he is determined to continue the encouraging steps Spurs have taken this year by finishing fourth. "This is a massive club," said Bale. "We've shown this year we can compete in major competitions, and now we have to qualify for the Champions League again. It is not going to be easy but we're fully focused on it. "I've grown a lot from this competition. Because Wales are struggling to qualify for major competitions, the Champions League is the highest level I am going to play at for the time being. "It is massively important that we get back into the Champions League. Everyone thrives on it and I want to play as much as I can now. "There is a massive hunger within the squad to get back in. It has been a huge part of our season and it has been great for everyone involved. Now we're out of the Champions League, it's time to concentrate on the Premier League, and we know we can achieve fourth." Bale caught the attention of many of the continent's biggest clubs when he almost pulled off a one-man rescue mission by scoring a second-half hat-trick against Inter Milan in a 4-3 defeat at the San Siro in October. The flying Welshman then provided White Hart Lane with one of its most memorable moments of recent times when he made Inter right-back Maicon look like a Sunday league player in the home fixture, which Spurs won 3-1. Despite signing a new contract recently, Bale could be the subject of a summer bidding war, with Barcelona, Manchester United and Inter all reportedly interested in the 21-year-old. Bale himself gave a lukewarm answer when questioned about his future if Spurs did not qualify for the Champions League, saying: "I'm happy here now, I'm not concentrating on anything else. I'm just focused on getting that fourth spot for Tottenham and that's all I'm looking forward to." Spurs held their own against Jose Mourinho's men for 50 minutes of Wednesday night's second leg before Heurelho Gomes' howler gifted the Spaniards a 1-0 victory to add to the 4-0 win in Madrid last week. Despite the big margin of the defeat, Bale insists that Spurs should be proud of their achievements and thinks the famous victories that the squad have carved out this year mean that it will not be long before the club are challenging for trophies. "I don't think we're far off winning something," he added. "It's mainly the consistency. We're new to the competition. It's been a learning curve for us, the whole competition, and we'll continue to get better. "We're still a young team. We've got plenty of games this season to improve and we'll learn from our experiences."