Sandro says Tottenham Hotspur are ready to deliver a statement of title-winning intent by beating Chelsea at White Hart Lane on Thursday. The Brazil midfielder, who feels he is finally over the injury problems that have plagued his season, is conscious that a victory would keep his team on the tail of the league leaders, Manchester City.
The gap stands at seven points and third-placed Tottenham have a game in hand. City entertain Stoke City on Wednesday but Sandro believes that how Tottenham fare against Chelsea in the eagerly awaited derby can set the tone for the remainder of the season.
"It can give us the belief that we can win the title," he said. "If we win this game, the only way will be up for us. We can make a big statement, although it will be a very difficult game. But we are playing at home and that is very good because the support is very good and that helps us. Yes, we can win the title. Why not? Every single player in the squad is good, we are a strong team and our bench is strong as well."
Sandro started only his third game of the Premier League season against Sunderland on Sunday, in the 1-0 home win, and his return to fitness felt timely in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe, and with Aaron Lennon limping off with a hamstring tear that, according to the manager, Harry Redknapp, will sideline him for "weeks".
Redknapp's selection fears for the Chelsea game, though, appear to be easing, with Bale and Defoe expected to be fit. Bale sprained an ankle in training on Saturday and, after a rest at home, he found he could not put weight on it. He had treatment on Monday – the squad had a rest day after Sunderland – and the signs were positive.
Defoe, too, is hopeful of being available for selection after a minor hamstring problem while Redknapp is optimistic that Ledley King, who played 90 minutes against Sunderland, can buck the trend and play two games in four days, despite his chronic knee condition.
It will be interesting to see what Redknapp does to replace Lennon on the right of midfield. He moved Rafael van der Vaart there against Sunderland and he watched the Dutch playmaker create three excellent chances, including the winning goal for Roman Pavlyuchenko. But Redknapp is worried about the pace on the overlap of the Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole and he knows that Van der Vaart does not have a defensive bone in his body.
Sandro hopes to retain his place for a fixture of which he has fond memories and personal ties. He scored his only goal for Tottenham in last season's 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge and is close friends with Chelsea's Brazil internationals David Luiz and Ramires. Sandro required surgery after damaging his knee at the Copa América in July and he has since been undermined by muscular problems.
"It has been very frustrating but the injuries are in the past now," he said. "I've worked so hard to be back in this position of being able to play again. My injuries are completely over now and I think I can establish myself in the team."
Tottenham were strangely subdued for the first hour against Sunderland and the striker Emmanuel Adebayor has demanded an improvement, starting on Thursday. "If we want to be in the top four, we have to play better than that," he said. "I don't know what happened in the first half and I don't really want to know. I'm just glad that the game is over.
"We felt heavy on the pitch and we didn't have any solution. It was tough but to be champions that's what it takes. It's the kind of game that, regardless of what happened, we were just pleased to get the three points."