Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Ade leaving Benfica on back burner

Emmanuel Adebayor is still targeting a Champions league spot with Tottenham next season

Emmanuel Adebayor is refusing to let his mind wander towards the mouth-watering last-16 Europa League tie with Benfica as the striker looks to fire Tottenham into the Barclays Premier League's top four.

The 30-year-old is enjoying a new lease of life at White Hart Lane under head coach Tim Sherwood, netting five goals in his last four appearances including a crucial brace in Tottenham's Europa League victory over Dnipro on Thursday.

That 3-2 aggregate success has secured a clash with Portuguese giants Benfica but, for Adebayor, it is a case of getting back to domestic business when Spurs welcome Premier League strugglers Cardiff to north London on Sunday.

"I'm not thinking about Benfica yet," he said. "I'm thinking about Cardiff and Chelsea, then Benfica. Right now, my head is on Cardiff on Sunday.

"We are playing well and playing for a place in the Champions League, Cardiff are playing to survive. They will be up for it and we have to want it more."

An unexpected defeat at Norwich last weekend means Sherwood's side are now six points adrift of Liverpool in the final Champions League position.

Midfielder Mousa Dembele is hoping the feel-good factor of securing safe passage in Europe can help get Spurs back on track in their hunt for the top four.

"It is a very important game," he said.

"It is the right time for us to get them (Cardiff) at home after our recent results at White Hart Lane and I think everybody is very happy and maybe a bit more confident after the Dnipro win.

"We hope now that we can see off Cardiff correctly and professionally. It was an important thing for us to beat Dnipro.

"Some people say that for English teams the Europa League is not so important. But for us I think it's very important.

"We want to achieve something this year and making progress in Europe is a big help."

Sherwood has no fresh injury concerns heading into the clash with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Bluebirds, with England defender Kyle Walker in contention to make his return from a hip problem.

Sandro could make his first Premier League start under Sherwood having recovered from a calf injury which had sidelined him since December - the Brazil midfielder played 75 minutes of the Dnipro win and is likely to retain his place.

Craig Bellamy believes keeping Cardiff in the Premier League would provide the perfect swansong to his career.

Bellamy returns to the side for Sunday's trip to Tottenham after serving a three-match suspension, handed out retrospectively by the Football Association.

That arose after Bellamy accepted a charge of violent conduct for striking Swansea midfielder Jonathan de Guzman with his arm during Cardiff's south Wales derby defeat on February 8.

In his absence, Cardiff have been knocked out of the FA Cup by Wigan, held to a goalless draw by Aston Villa, and embarrassingly hammered 4-0 by Hull.

City are now one place off the foot of the table and three points shy of safety, and with a far inferior goal difference to the sides above them.

Bellamy, though, has the bit between his teeth and is relishing the prospect of the scrap to keep City in the top flight that lies ahead.

"This is quite a good challenge. If I'm really honest, it really is," said 34-year-old Bellamy, who is approaching the 17th anniversary of his debut he made for Norwich in 1997.

"It's very easy to play well when you're winning games, morale is high and everything looks good.

"But when you're up against it then you see who your good players are, who can really play, and when the pressure is on, who wants the ball and wants to do something with it.

"When things aren't going well you find out who the real people are in the club, and that for me is the challenge.

"So what a great achievement it would be to get out of this, and I'm really motivated.

"Who knows where my career will go at the end of the season, so for me, what a nice way to end - if it is the finish - by keeping this club up in the Premier League.

"That would be a fitting end, a great achievement like last year (when the club won promotion) that I've left the club in a real healthy state."

Bellamy is also fired up following his ban, although it is a sign of his maturity these days he first spoke to De Guzman before deciding of his own volition to accept the punishment.

"I was disappointed with the suspension. The club wanted to appeal, but it was me who chose not to," Bellamy added.

"I didn't want my name dragged through anything, or to accuse anyone of anything. I spoke to De Guzman, had a good conversation with him.

"For me personally, it (the incident) wasn't the cleverest thing I've done, but it wasn't the worst either.

"So it was a case of get on with it, take the ban and look forward to the games coming up. Unfortunately the three games I have missed were difficult games to watch.

"Hopefully I've an opportunity to make up for it from now until the end of the season."

Bellamy feels the loss to Hull has galvanised the players over the past few days, and made them realise what is at stake.

"The reaction has been positive, as you would want it to be," he said. "It was obviously a difficult result, but we got what we deserved. Hull were worthy winners.

"In a lot of games we've been competitive this season, but that was one in which we weren't, so that left us really disappointed.

"But the best thing about football is there's always another opportunity the next week.

"We just have to go there (to Tottenham) with high energy and in a positive frame of mind, which is what we were lacking against Hull."

Along with Bellamy, manager Solskjaer should have Jordon Mutch available after his recovery from a hamstring problem, while fellow midfielder Gary Medel could figure as he is back in training following a lay-off with a thigh injury.

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