Spurs seek to tighten grip on European dream

England, March 19, 2010 (AFP) - Tottenham can consolidate their grip on fourth place against Stoke this weekend but midfielder Tom Huddlestone is already looking beyond qualification for next season's Champions League.

The midfielder, 23, this week committed his long term future to the White Hart Lane club by agreeing a new five-year deal.

Huddlestone, who has played a key role in Spurs' continuing bid to break up the established top four, has been tipped as an outside contender to break into Fabio Capello’s England World Cup squad and his claims will no doubt be enhanced if Harry Redknapp’s side maintain their current standing.

That would cap an outstanding season for the player who believes the current campaign could prove to be a turning point for the north London club.

"If we keep making progress like we have done this season, then who knows what we may achieve over the next five years," Huddlestone said.

"The club's had a good season so far, and if we get back into Europe I want to be part of that because we've missed it this season.

"On a personal level, I'm happy as long as I'm playing football and I've done that this season.

"That consistency has come with playing regularly and the team have had a consistent season overall so far - my own performances have coincided with that.

"I got in the side at the start of this season because Jermaine Jenas was injured to start with, but we won the first few games and the manager kept the team as it was.

"I've played well since then and he's stuck with me. Now the contract is sorted I can concentrate on my football with no worries off the pitch."

Spurs currently sit one point clear of fifth-placed Liverpool having played a game less. Manchester City lie sixth, a further point adrift of the crucial fourth spot but have played a game less than Redknapp’s side.

And with City and Liverpool not due to play until 24 hours later, Tottenham have the opportunity to increase the pressure on their main rivals by claiming victory over Tony Pulis’ side.

However, the Britannia Stadium has proved a painful testing ground for a number of the Premier League’s leading clubs, not least Spurs' north London rivals Arsenal who have been repeatedly unsettled by Stoke's direct approach.

Spurs, though, impressed in the way they handled a similarly physical test against Blackburn last time out when striker Roman Pavlyuchenko continued his rehabilitation with two goals to take his personal tally to eight in six appearances.

The in-form Russian is again expected to start at the expense of England striker Peter Crouch, alongside Jermain Defoe.

Stoke have maintained an impressive level of consistency throughout the season and currently lie just outside the top half of the table in 11th place.

The target for Tony Pulis’s side is to break into the top ten before the end of the season and defender Danny Collins is convinced that is a realistic aim.

"I think Birmingham and Fulham are just above us and it would be good to get amongst those two in the last nine games," he said.

"We have to have a little look over our shoulder at the teams below us, but the lads in the squad are looking up."

Ryan Shawcross will return to the squad for the game on Saturday after serving a three-match suspension following his sending off against Arsenal when his wayward tackle left Aaron Ramsey with a broken leg.

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