You're doing it again, Tottenham Hotspur supporters.
Rewind the clock back 13 months to a time when everything was comin' up Milhouse for Spurs. Tottenham held a double-digit lead over rivals Arsenal, Harry Redknapp had just avoided serving jail time for (alleged) tax evasion, and Spurs were flying high after drubbing Newcastle United 5-0 at White Hart Lane. We were singing songs about a fellow north London club needing to be observant about a certain amount of space, living in a football wonderland that made those "Taxi for Maicon" days equal to receiving a high-end sweater but not an XBOX 360 on Christmas morning.
You all know how the story ends. Arsenal caught up with and passed Spurs in the time it takes one to find an accountant who will sign off on a dog's tax returns, Tottenham lost out on Champions League despite finishing fourth, and Redknapp was booted out of the Lane before the official start of summer. The once unthinkable had occurred, and Spurs supporters everywhere were understandably devastated.
Looks like some of you didn't learn anything. Far too many Tottenham supporters I know are counting unhatched chickens following the latest north London derby, and some are even suggesting that the in-form Gareth Bale is the best player on earth. Elsewhere around the league, Chelsea are one poor result away from potentially crumbling, Arsenal don't look like a top-four side, and City are in such a state that Spurs could finish as high as second. Disaster certainly can't strike again, right?
Don't be so sure.
Looking ahead, it's logical to suggest that Spurs will earn or lose Champions League football over the next six weeks. They're currently looking at a schedule of nine total matches between March 7 and April 27, and more fixtures could be added if Tottenham advance in Europa League. I'm going to assume that four clubs will be fighting for three Champions League slots; Manchester City on 59 points, Spurs on 54 points, Chelsea on 52 points, and Arsenal on 47 points. Here's a week-by-week breakdown of how things could go terribly wrong for Tottenham between now and May 1.
Note: Some of the fixtures mentioned below will be moved to later dates because of FA Cup play. Fulham vs. Chelsea, for example, has not yet been rescheduled after that match was pushed back because of the Blues facing Manchester United in a FA Cup game on March 10.
Just three days after they host Inter for a Europa League showdown, Spurs will be away to seventh place Liverpool on March 10. Anfield hasn't been a fortress for a Liverpool side that have dropped for home EPL contests this season, but they're a very scary team when an in-form Luis Suarez is playing as well as is anybody in the league. The hosts will also be fully rested after having last played on March 2. Tottenham should be happy to leave here with a draw and a total of 55 points.
Spurs follow a trip to Italy and second showdown with Inter with a home game against middle-of-the-table Fulham. Tottenham cannot afford anything but a win here. 13 days later, they'll be away to a Swansea side who completed their biggest accomplishment of the season a couple of weeks ago when they won the League Cup. Swans manager Michael Laudrup has challenged his squad to not phone it in for the rest of the season, and this one could prove to be nervy for Spurs. I'll be optimistic and say that Tottenham will return home with 56/58 points in hand.
Tottenham then host Everton on April 7. The Toffees are often a tough out, but these teams always seem to split home victories. Spurs win and now have 59/61 points. Then comes a huge match on April 14 at Chelsea. I understand that the Blues appear to be a hot mess on and off the pitch, but I'm also not convinced that they still aren't, on paper, the third best team in the league. I'm saying Spurs remain on 59/61 points after this one. Tottenham vs. City on April 21 also makes me nervous, as does the April 27 Wigan vs. Spurs match. Wigan are currently in the middle of a relegation battle, and this is that magical time of year when they come from nowhere and catapult up the table. It's possible that Tottenham could end April on 59, 60, 61, 64 or 67 points.
Closing out the campaign versus Southampton and Sunderland, with an away match against Stoke sandwiched in between, doesn't seem too menacing for Spurs at the moment. The problem with that type of thinking is that we don't yet know how fatigue, injuries and other matters will press the squad of manager Andre Villas-Boas when those May games arrive. Southampton and Sunderland may also still be fighting for their Premier League lives on deadline day.
When all is said and done, I'm putting Spurs on a total of 70 points with a plus-minus ratio of five points. That's 65 points if a 2012-esque disaster strikes, and 75 points if their current form continues and they also have to worry about additional Europa League fixtures down the road. Will that be good enough for a top-four finish?
Here's what Arsenal have in front of them: Swans (a), Reading (h), West Brom (a), Norwich (h), Everton (h), Fulham (a), United (h), QPR (a), Wigan (h), Newcastle (a). Barring what would be a shocking upset of Bayern Munich on March 13, the Gunners won't have any European or Cup football to worry about after last week. If they can just avoid losing their toughest remaining games, they could also finish right around 70 points. One point could again separate the north London rivals at the end of the season.
Chelsea have: Home-and-home Europa League games against Steaua Bucuresti, a road game at Fulham, a FA Cup match at Old Trafford, and league contests against West Ham (h), Southampton (a), Sunderland (h), Spurs (h), Liverpool (a), Swans (h), United (a), Villa (a), and Everton (h). Without knowing if they'll advance in FA Cup and/or Europa League, I'm willing to give the Blues an additional 20-23 points, which would have them hovering right around the 75-point mark. That showdown at Stamford Bridge on April 14 could ultimately be the most important match of the year for Chelsea and/or Spurs.
City have the least to worry about in my eyes: Wigan (h), Everton (a), Newcastle (h), United (a), West Brom (h), Spurs (a), West Ham (h), Swansea (a), Reading (a), and Norwich (h). Earning 18 out of a remaining 30 points could be enough for City to finish ahead of Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal and behind only United.
Tottenham undeniably got hot at the perfect time. They now must keep their current form up through the end of April. Just a couple of slip-ups, like losses to Chelsea and City or draws against lesser sides, along with Arsenal and Chelsea beating the teams they should could have everybody using a "C" word other than Champions to describe Tottenham's future:
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Champions League
- Europa League
- Newcastle United