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Keane prepares for make-or-break derby clash

Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane has hailed Saturday's derby clash with rivals Arsenal as the biggest game of his Tottenham career.

The Highbury showdown is already being billed as the match which will ultimately decide who clinches the lucrative fourth place in the Barclays Premiership and Keane is ready for the challenge after a successful year with both club and country.

Keane was made captain of the Republic team earlier this season and signed a new four-year contract at White Hart Lane, but victory over Arsenal and a place among Europe's elite next season would make it even better.

Keane said: 'The Arsenal game is the biggest since I've been at the club, there's a lot riding on it. It's important for me personally and for the players at the club that we can achieve what we want to achieve and that's Champions League.

'The key against Arsenal is not to lose the game, that's the most important thing. If we get something, if we get a point there then great.

'But if we play the way we have been playing I think we have a great chance. We know Arsenal are right behind us, they have a game in hand and Saturday will be a massive game. Of course we are looking over our shoulders, it is only natural that we do.

'Over the last few weeks a lot people have been saying that Tottenham will slip up soon but at the moment we have not.

'As the game gets closer and closer you hear the fans talking about it. It's a massive game for the fans and for ourselves. There's a lot riding on it. For the players it is a great to play in.'

Keane has been in sparkling form for Tottenham since he managed to fight his way back into the first team.

The Irishman was left on the substitutes` bench at the start of the season as coach Martin Jol opted to pair Egyptian striker Mido with England's Jermain Defoe in attack.

He has rewarded Jol's faith with 15 goals so far this season but despite his success, Keane admits that he does not feel safe from the axe.

Keane added: 'I never say I'm first choice at the club. When you start thinking you're first choice then the next week you could be dropped. You can't. I just take each game as it comes and make sure I do well to get picked for the next one.

'I'm playing, so I'm enjoying my football. When you are playing consistently it is much better than stop-start, you get that sharpness. I'm as fit as I've ever been because I'm playing on a regular basis.

'Football is my life. If I am not playing every week, or only now and again it is very difficult. I try not to get myself down. I can be miserable at home no problem because I can get away but when I come into training I can't be.

'This is the most enjoyable and satisfying season I've had. Obviously at the start, I was not playing as much as I'd have liked but when I did get in it has completely changed round for me. I'm delighted.

'Obviously I'm feeling settled because I've been here longer than at other clubs I've been at. I felt settled at other clubs but because of circumstances I had to leave.

'It's been a great year for me, one of my best. To be made captain of your country is a kid`s dream. If I'm being honest I would never have thought that at 25 I would have been the captain. It's been a tremendous year for me and I don't want it to end.'

Even if Spurs manage to clinch fourth place at the end of the season, Arsenal can still rob them of a place in the Champions League if they win Europe's top prize.

But Keane pulls no punches when he says he wants Arsenal to lose in the final if they get there.

Keane added: 'If Arsenal get to the final of course we want them to lose. It's as simple as that. We've got to look after ourselves and we want to get in the Champions League and no disrespect to Arsenal, but we've got to look after Tottenham - that's our priority.

'If we qualify for the UEFA Cup it will be a great achievement in itself. Every year you always want to improve on the last and we've already done that.

'Now, given the position we are in if we don't make the Champions League of course we'd be disappointed.

'The players want to play in the best competition which is the Champions League. We would be gutted if we didn't make it but hopefully on Saturday we can get a good result and come May 7 we will be in the Champions League. It`s going to be tough.'