Tottenham bids to return to Champions League spots

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LONDON (AP) -For the second consecutive season, Andre Villas-Boas heads into a Premier League campaign overseeing a new era of football at one of London's leading teams.

Instead of performing that role at Chelsea, however, the Portuguese manager is seeking to steer Tottenham back into Champions League football.

His tenure as Chelsea manager came to a humiliating end when he was fired in March, only nine months into a three-year-deal with reports rife that an uprising of senior players at the club had made his position untenable.

Four months later, Villas-Boas replaced Harry Redknapp at Spurs. A devastating slump in form ensured Tottenham capitulated from 10 points ahead of fierce rival Arsenal in the final automatic qualifying spot for Champions League to a point behind the Gunners.

Ironically, it was the success of Chelsea after Villas-Boas' departure that meant his old club took Tottenham's place in the Champions League as defending champion, despite finishing sixth in the Premier League.

The 34-year-old Villas-Boas believes Tottenham can mount another title challenge after being given assurances from the club's board that he is the right person to build upon Redknapp's achievements.

"For me, after the Chelsea step it was important to choose somewhere with the right people with the right commitment. I think I have found it." Villas-Boas said. "I think last year was the first time Tottenham has spoken so publicly and open about the title, and that is where we want to go."

Spurs' offseason transfer activity suggests they will again compete for the Champions League places, with defender Jan Vertonghen joining from Ajax and Gylfi Sigurdsson signing from German club Hoffenheim.

Vertonghen is a central defender with an eye for goal. He captained Ajax to the Dutch league title last season, scoring 10 goals and winning the player of the year award, as well as the same honor as from his club.

Sigurdsson is an attacking midfielder who spent the second half of last season on loan at Swansea, scoring seven goals in 19 appearances. He had been expected to follow then-Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool, but chose London over Liverpool.

While Vertonghen seems a natural replacement for club captain Ledley King, who was forced to retire at 31 because of a chronic knee injury, Sigurdsson looks set to do likewise for Luka Modric. The Croatia playmaker has been agitating for a move to Real Madrid, receiving a fine after refusing to train and then travel for Tottenham's preseason tour of the United States.

However, the club was boosted by Gareth Bale signing a four-year deal contract extension before the arrival of Villas-Boas.

The Wales winger has been linked with several clubs across Europe ever since his sensational displays in Spurs' Champions League campaign in 2010-11. He scored a hat trick in a 4-3 loss to Inter Milan at the San Siro before inspiring his team to a 3-1 victory in the second leg.

"I love the club and the fans and I want to play my part in trying to get us back into the Champions League - where we belong," Bale said.

Netherlands playmaker Rafael van der Vaart has also publicly dismissed talk of him leaving White Hart Lane, but defenders Ryan Nelsen (Queens Park Rangers) and Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow) plus midfielder Niko Kranjcar (Dynamo Kiev) have left the club.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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