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English Premiership

Spurs sounds warning shot

BIRMINGHAM, December 27- Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp insists his team should be viewed as Premier League title contenders following their victory at Aston Villa.Rafael van der Vaart’s double was enough to give 10-man Spurs a 2-1 victory at Villa Park with the result moving the Londoners up to fifth and within a point of champions Chelsea, who take on Arsenal on Monday.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already claimed only his table-toppers, Chelsea and Arsenal can win the Premier League this season – but Redknapp, whose team face Newcastle on Tuesday, thinks otherwise.

"We are massive outsiders," he said. "We are 33/1 and that’s about right I suppose. But, as I keep saying, it’s open this year.

"It’s not impossible. You’ve got to believe you can achieve something. It’s there for someone to have a real crack at it.

"There is very little between the top five or six teams. We are playing as well as anybody. We’ve got people who could get in any team — Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Van der Vaart.

"We’ve got some quality players throughout the team. A good squad. We want to get in that top four again. That’s the main aim — Champions League football again.

"If you have a good run you dont know where it will take you. Its happened before."

Spurs lost Jermain Defoe to a red card in the first half for an elbow on James Collins and Redknapp said of the incident: "I haven’t seen it since, but at the time I didn’t have any arguments.

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"I certainly wouldn’t say I think he (Defoe) would go at the player intentionally though. Maybe it was just a little centre-forward’s challenge. The referee is a good referee, but he had a bad game."

Van der Vaart, who also scored twice against Villa in October, was delighted to make such an impact on his return from a month out with a hamstring injury.

"It’s always a difficult game, they have a very good team," he said. "It was a very good win away with 10 men."

Villa manager Gerard Houllier remained upbeat despite daunting back-to-back trips to Manchester City on Tuesday and Chelsea on January 2 awaiting his struggling 15th-placed side, who have lost four of their last five league games.

"I think it was a poor result, but not a poor performance," the Frenchman said. "Maybe with a bit of luck we could have had a second goal.

"But their second goal killed us, even if the second half showed we could have got something from the game."

Houllier is likely to be without Emile Heskey for the trip to Eastlands after the striker hobbled off with an ankle problem.

The Villa manager also hinted Nigel Reo-Coker could be drafted in after he and fit-again skipper Stiliyan Petrov were both left on the bench with young duo Jonathan Hogg and Fabian Delph, back for his first game since April following a cruciate knee ligament injury, preferred against Spurs.

"Hopefully we can do what Everton did (last week and win at Eastlands)," said Houllier. "Newcastle tried (on Sunday) but it didnt work for them.

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"The bulk of their (City’s) team has been playing together for a year-and-a-half now, which is what you need to be successful.

"We have to stick together and try to push up the table."

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