I always had faith - AVB Andre Villas-Boas never doubted he would turn around Tottenham's season after their poor start. Many were shocked this summer when Spurs chairman Daniel Levy sacked Harry Redknapp and replaced him with Villas-Boas, who had just endured a torrid eight-month spell in charge of Chelsea. Villas-Boas' critics were given further ammunition when the 34-year-old's team failed to win any of their opening three games. Tottenham were booed off after throwing away leads against Norwich and West Brom, but the Portuguese has turned around the club's fortunes in recent weeks, winning three straight league games - the most notable of which came at Manchester United last weekend. Villas-Boas has a history of proving the doubters wrong - he won four trophies in his first season at Porto despite claims he was too inexperienced - and he never thought Spurs' early-season slump would drag on. "I have never doubted my abilities, I always trusted them," Villas-Boas said. "It's funny how things change so dramatically. "The Premier League is completely unpredictable. We started the season (badly). We are now fifth from the top. "You have to perform at this level. This is the early stages in the Premier League." Villas-Boas is not a man to rest on his laurels, however. He knows a lot still has to be done to achieve the top-four place Levy demanded of him when he signed a three-year contract at White Hart Lane in July. After last weekend's memorable win at Old Trafford, Tottenham's lack of ruthlessness reared its head again on Thursday night when they dominated their Europa League game against Panathinaikos but only came away with a point after the Greek hosts scored a late equaliser. The Spurs boss has been encouraged by his team's improved results in the Barclays Premier League, but he now wants them to maintain their push for Champions League qualification by beating Aston Villa on Sunday and Chelsea the following weekend. Villas-Boas is expected to recall 41-year-old goalkeeper Brad Friedel for the game against his former club despite a relatively solid performance from France captain Hugo Lloris against Panathinaikos. Striker Emmanuel Adebayor is available after recovering from a hamstring injury, but Villas-Boas is likely to stick with Jermain Defoe - on his 30th birthday - as his lone striker.
Villa manager Paul Lambert is predicting "big careers" for his rookie defenders Matthew Lowton and Joe Bennett if they maintain their current rate of progress. Lowton and Bennett have made the step up from League One and the Championship after being signed in the summer from Sheffield United and Middlesbrough respectively. They are now Lambert's first-choice right-back and left-back and the Villa boss believes they are unfazed by the Premier League ahead of Sunday's visit to Tottenham. Lambert said: "People talk about them as hidden gems and you get great satisfaction from seeing them do well for themselves. The Norwich lads were exactly the same. "There was the opportunity there for the young lads to drive on in the game and it's the same here. "You wouldn't have thought they've just come from where they've come from, that's for sure. "If you are talking about Lowton and Bennett, they don't seem fazed at all. "They have played a lot of games with Sheffield United and Middlesbrough, so playing in front of big crowds will not faze them. "Be it Championship or League One football, these are tough leagues so they are battle-hardened. They know what it is like to play proper football. "They have earned the right to play at Tottenham and it is not something they should be frightened by. They should not go there with any trepidation." Lambert takes great satisfaction from up-and-coming players realising their potential. He said: "There is nothing better than seeing players hitting the heights you think they can achieve. "If they can keep going the way they are going, they will have really big careers. "I think they will learn from their mistakes and the type of players you come up against week in and week out are world-class players." Lambert has to decide whether to recall striker Darren Bent after he responded to being dropped with the equaliser as a substitute in the 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa. But he admitted: "I need everyone. I've always taken that stance. I've always been that way. I need not just the 18 lads but everyone at the football club to go the same way. "As an ex player, I know you have to do your utmost to get into the side. "But I trust everyone when they are on the field of play to perform and the lads have been great."