Despite having to deal with their biggest disappointment of the season last Thursday and a weekend that saw them fall to fifth place in the Premier League table, Tottenham Hotspur still have reasons for hope. They are once again in control of their Champions League fate, and a third place finish is still well within reach. Before any Spurs supporter can get overly excited, however, we will all first need to find out about the fitness of three key players.
Tottenham's recent despair began on April 11 when, despite being without Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe, they rallied from behind to tie Basel 2-2 in the closing minutes of regulation. What ultimately became a Europa League knockout game was determined by a shootout that was won by the Swiss outfit. With their April 14 game against Chelsea pushed back because of FA Cup play, Spurs could do nothing but watch as Arsenal scored three goals in seven minutes to defeat Norwich City 3-1 on April 13. That result put Arsenal in third place, Chelsea in fourth and Spurs in fifth.
To make matters worse, Everton defeated QPR 2-0 on that same afternoon. The Toffees were within just three points of Spurs in the league table following that victory. Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton had all played 32 league contests following this past weekend. Chelsea had, up to that point, only played 31.
Three days later, Arsenal and Everton met in a showdown at the Emirates. What was a completely missable affair for just about every fan ended in a scoreless draw, the best possible result for Spurs. Chelsea's 3-0 romp over Fulham earlier today (April 17) put the Blues back into third place.
Chelsea (still in Europa League) and Tottenham have thus far played 32 league contests, while all other Champions League hopefuls have played 33. Chelsea are on 61 points, Arsenal are on 60 points, Spurs are on 58 and Everton are on 56. Arsenal will be away to Fulham on April 20. Everton will be away to Sunderland, who are in the middle of a relegation battle, on that same day.
April 21 is a massive day for three clubs in particular. Spurs will host City, who are desperately trying to keep their title hopes alive. Chelsea will be away to Liverpool, perhaps the most inconsistent side in the league, to wrap up the weekend's EPL fixtures.
The worst news for Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas following the midweek league games is that it is looking more and more as if he won't be able to feature two of his best lineup mainstays. Bale (ankle) and Lennon (knee) may be relegated to second half duty, at most, and AVB may have no other choice than to hold one or both men back until Spurs are away to Wigan on April 27. Defoe, recovering from a muscle injury, returned to training this past weekend.
Tottenham have math on their side, but that all could change if they are unable to take care of their business at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Spurs cannot afford to be overly concerned with what happens elsewhere around the league. They have six "cup finals" ahead of them, starting with a match-up against the defending league champions.
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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