Tottenham Hotspur is a team on a roll at the moment. Riding on the back of their talismanic attacker Gareth Bale, the club is looking at a remarkably successful first season under Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas. His troops lie third in the table with 51 points, two points ahead of his previous employers Chelsea and five points behind defending champions of the league Manchester City who are second. The temperature is rising in the Premier League with the Spurs looking to restore Champions League football to White Hart Lane after initially making it to Europe’s premier club competition two seasons ago.
|Bale & Co. need to make sure they don't have the same expression at the end of the season|
What remains common between that Champions League experience and this Premier League campaign is the overwhelming effect of a certain Gareth Bale, who notched up 4 goals in 9 games in the club’s run in 2010-11 until the quarter-final defeat at the hands of Real Madrid.
This season has been the stuff of dreams for the attacker as the flexi’bale’ and unplaya’bale’ Welshman has proved to be the difference in almost all of Spurs’ outings so far, replicating his form from the San Siro two years ago in the group phase of the Champions League when he scored a stunning hat-trick.
Last-minute winners have been Bale’s specialty this season with two stoppage time free-kicks clinching it for the English club against French side Lyon in the Europa League Round of 16 first leg. He did it again two nights ago against West Ham United in the league by scoring from an audacious distance in the dying moments. One wonders where Tottenham would be without the former Southampton prodigy.
|LAST SEASON'S COLLAPSE
Spurs' gray areas after Arsenal loss
||Manchester United (1-3) (H)
||Everton (1-0) (A)|
||Stoke (1-1) (H)
||Chelsea (0-0) (A)|
|Apr 9||Norwich (1-2) (H)|
|Apr 21||QPR (1-0) (A)|
What lies between the Spurs and European football next season are 11 remaining Premier League fixtures, which unlike last season must not be a choking stage for the ambitious squad led by 35-year old Villas-Boas.
The fight for the third and fourth league spots is definitely up for grabs for the 3 teams vying for it – Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal while Everton also remain in the hunt.
Simultaneously, Spurs and the Blues seem to have their own private battle going on for the third spot with the former also eyeing an outside chance of catching up with Manchester City and stealing the second spot from them.
With some really competitive and tough fixtures lined up for the White Hart Lane faithful as well as the other top contenders, there is a certain air of unpredictability in the air in the English top flight, with almost anything possible at this stage.
Zeroing in on Spurs’ collapse towards the end of last season, one would remember the whole phenomenon took centre stage after the North London derby at the Emirates stadium on 26 February 2012 went Arsenal’s way in a thrilling 5-2 result. Tottenham went on to lose four and draw four out of their twelve remaining clashes after the derby loss, which eventually resulted in them finishing 4th.
The most painful part was that Chelsea went on to win against Bayern Munich in the final of the Champions League and qualified automatically for this season's group phase despite finishing 6th in the league which meant Spurs were relegated to the Europa League.
The lack in concentration at that stage was attributed in part to the speculation of Harry Redknapp being eyed as the next England first-team manager; who was at the helm for Spurs last season.
Such are the ways of football that Tottenham find themselves in the same position they were in last season. They face Arsenal (this time at White Hart Lane) in the North London derby on 3 March, with Champions League football firmly in their sights; along with a tricky set of fixtures in line.
The showdown on Sunday could be the turning point in their season, with victory being seen as a sure improvement from last season, when they suffered a heavy defeat and thereby lost their way in the games that followed. Winning on Sunday against a somewhat off-colour Arsenal side will give Villas-Boas’ men the belief that this is their season and not another challenge that fizzles out at the final few hurdles.
|SECOND TIME LUCKY?
Good results in these will avert a black climax
||Manchester City (H)
The road is a seemingly thorny one for Spurs who are in search for a place among Europe’s elite next season.
One aspect that makes Spurs finishing in the top-four a major possibility is the players’ attitude and determination this season. Having spoken enough about Bale, one must also cast their attention on the new recruits Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele who along with the usual suspects in Aaron Lennon, William Gallas and the like have made Tottenham Hotspurs a force to be reckoned with in the English Premier League.
So with everything said and done, this promises to be an intriguing and all important derby. Will Tottenham hold their nerve on Sunday and for the rest of the season? Will Bale be instrumental again? The clash against Arsenal may just answer those and many more questions.
Will Tottenham successfully clinch a Champions League berth or will the pressure of the same weigh down their challenge this season? DO LEAVE US A COMMENT!
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