Football: Tottenham banking on Bale for derby clash

LONDON (REUTERS) - Unbeaten in 11 Premier League matches and with man-of-the-moment Gareth Bale scoring at will, Tottenham Hotspur start as favourites against Arsenal on Sunday in a north London derby crucial to both sides' hopes of Champions League qualification.

Victory for third-placed Tottenham would send them seven points clear of the fifth-placed Gunners and keep them above Chelsea in what is becoming a London-based tussle for third and fourth spots behind the Manchester clubs.

Bale has scored eight goals in his last six matches for Tottenham after manager Andre Villas-Boas gave the Welsh winger freedom to roam inside, his latest stunner coming to earn his side a 3-2 victory at West Ham United on Monday.

Arsenal, who last claimed three points at Spurs in 2007, have also been consistent in the league despite cup exits at the hands of fourth tier Bradford City and Championship side Blackburn Rovers and a Champions League mauling by Bayern Munich.

While Villas-Boas has won over the sceptics among Tottenham's fans after a tricky start at White Hart Lane, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has come in for unprecedented criticism as an eighth successive trophyless campaign looms.

Wenger, however, has lost only five times in 39 north London derbies, even if the gap between the clubs has closed.