AVB fancies Bale for Golden Boot
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas sees no reason why Gareth Bale cannot win the Golden Boot this season as he sizes up north London rivals Arsenal.
With 11 matches of the season left, Bale has already racked up an impressive 15 goals in the Barclays Premier League - five more than his previous best in an entire season.
That tally leaves Bale four short of current top scorer Robin van Persie, and three adrift of Liverpool's Luis Suarez, but if the trio keep on scoring at their current rates then it will be the Welshman who ends up finishing the season as top scorer.
Over the last seven games Bale has averaged 1.28 goals per match, significantly more than Van Persie (0.28), Suarez (0.71) and Swansea hitman Michu (0.42).
Should Bale maintain this ratio he will end the season with 29 goals, with Suarez three behind on 26 and Van Persie even further adrift on 22.
"It is possible (that Bale can win the Golden Boot), yes," Villas-Boas said.
"That would be excellent. I am not sure (if he will). It is difficult. There are a lot of players competing. Van Persie, Suarez, and Jermain Defoe is still in the mix, but it is possible."
Few would have predicted that Bale would become one of the hottest properties in world football when he made his debut for Spurs in 2007 as a gangly left-back.
The second goal the Welshman scored for the north London club following his arrival from Southampton six years ago was against bitter rivals Arsenal.
Back then Arsenal were always big favourites to beat Spurs in the derby, but it has been a much more even affair of late, with both teams winning three games, and three being drawn, over the last five years.
Villas-Boas yesterday played down the suggestion that Spurs are now the masters of north London, but he knows the seven-point gap they will open up over Arsenal if they win will prove crucial in the race for Champions League qualification.
"We are focused on trying to win because it's important to establish our position in the Premier League," the Tottenham manager said.
"Our objective is to gain the most amount of points as we can and against Arsenal, we have the chance to move further away from them and put ourselves in a more comfortable position.
"It's an opportunity. The players are ready, prepared and we all know what we want to achieve this season.
"This is a very specific game, anything could happen really.
"I think it will be an open game from both sides, full of emotion, full of adrenaline, unpredictable. I think that's the sort of game we expect and most of the fixtures have translated like that."
Defoe has recovered from an ankle injury and is in contention but Villas-Boas must decide whether to start the striker or risk Emmanuel Adebayor, who was sent off after 18 minutes of the reverse fixture in November.
Younes Kaboul, Sandro and Tom Huddlestone are all absent with knee injuries while Clint Dempsey is also missing due to a calf problem.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains his side will not be making any specials plans to try to shackle Bale.
Wenger insists his team must concentrate on delivering a performance themselves rather than worry about what Bale might do.
"We don't plan for anybody. It is always the same - focus on our strengths and forget about your opponent," said Wenger.
"There is nobody special that you least like to face. All players have different qualities.
"What is important when you are a manager is that you are focused, that hasn't changed over the last 15 years, you always make sure your team is at its best, prepares well and focuses on playing the football that we love.
"What is important before a game like that is just to focus on our game and forget all the rest."
Arsenal will be without defender Bacary Sagna (knee), while midfielder Abou Diaby is rated as 50/50 with a calf problem and defender Kieran Gibbs remains out with a thigh injury.