'It's win or bust for us!' Van der Vaart on Spurs' crunch clash with Man City
Rafael van der Vaart says Sunday's mouth-watering lunchtime clash at Manchester City is win or bust in terms of Tottenham's title challenge.
Harry Redknapp's men will be eight points off the pace if they become the latest victims at the Etihad Stadium, but Van der Vaart believes Spurs are more than capable of ending City's 100 per cent home record and avenging that 5-1 thrashing at White Hart Lane at the start of the season.
'We have to win to keep the league a bit closer,' said the 29-year-old Dutchman.
Crucial: Rafael van der Vaart thinks Tottenham need to beat Man City
'I don't think we can play for a draw. Everything depends on this game. If we can win there, everything is really open. Of course if you lose, it's eight points and that's a lot.'
Van der Vaart believes City may underestimate Spurs following Micah Richards's much-publicised comments in the build-up to today's double-header that only Manchester United can be considered genuine rivals.
'I think maybe still in their head is the 5-1,' added Van der Vaart. 'We were trying at the time to sign Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor. That's not an excuse to lose 5-1, but it was one of the reasons.
'We are a different team now, much stronger. After the game, we can see where we stand. We have to respect City because I think they have maybe the best squad in the league, certainly the biggest.
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'They spend a lot of money and they can do it so let's hope we get a good result. We are much more consistent now: last year we dropped too many points against smaller teams.'
Although he has been a huge success since trading Madrid for north London, Van der Vaart has at times struggled with his fitness and showed his annoyance at being subbed by Redknapp, invariably after being asked to operate on the right of midfield instead of his favoured central attacking role.
'To be honest for me it was hard to play the 90 minutes. Having come from a totally different league, the way of thinking was totally different. When you feel good you want to stay on, but it's the decision of the coach.
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'Sometimes you can have a good chat with the coach and say, “Sorry, I reacted wrong but it's nothing personal”. But now, especially the last few months, I feel strong.'
He recognises that some might consider Spurs a step down from Real Madrid but is keen to play out the remaining two-and-a-half years after seeing the club's ambitions, not least holding on to Luka Modric.
'We all wanted him to stay because he's an important player and a great personality. When a club like Tottenham says No to the money that means everything. I think this club can be bigger than everybody expected.'