This quote is relevant in the case of Tottenham Hotspur. Having had a remarkable season for most parts, Spurs are facing a downhill phase in recent times. If it wasn't for a dip in performances (like last time out), Andre Villas-Boas' troops have fallen prey to the one thing footballers as well as other sportspersons loath the most after bad form - injuries.
Before Thursday night's entertaining 2-2 draw at home against FC Basel in the Europa League quarters, Spurs were already devoid of the services of midfielder Sandro (knee), striker Jermain Defoe (pelvis) and defender Younes Kaboul (again knee). If that were not enough for the Portuguese tactician in the dugout, his side's injury list doubled at full time with a trio of players joining the draft already sidelined.
Winger Aaron Lennon had to be substituted early on for a knee injury in the encounter with the Swiss team for Gylfi Sigurdsson with centre-half William Gallas sustaining a calf strain at the end of the game. But the big debacle of the night came when Tottenham's crown jewel Gareth Bale buckled his ankle under a heavy tackle from David Degen. The Welshman was stretchered off just seconds before the final whistle, with the undesirable end to the game in the form of his injury marring Spurs fighting comeback from 2-0 down to salvage a point.
And most importantly, the injury lay-off to Bale and the others leaves Tottenham's Champions League qualification hopes hanging by a thread despite them being in third spot domestically. Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton are hot on their heels with the Europa League frankly an unwelcome distraction. Add to that some tough matches in the league and injuries were possibly the last thing they needed at this point of the season.
|Injury crisis | Bale joins Defoe & Co on the sidelines|
Though reports of the scans on Friday say Bale will be out only for a major portion of two weeks, the occurence of his compulsary exclusion comes at a time when Spurs are already facing an injury crisis in the wake of some extremely crucial fixtures in the Premier League as well as the Europa League quarter-final second-leg away to a strong Basel side.
Their next three ties are daunting to say the least. Up next are an in-form Everton at home who will be gung-ho about reducing the 6-point deficit between the two sides at the moment. Then comes the trip to Switzerland followed by yet another make-or-break match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It is believed that Bale should be back for the match against Manchester City at home the week after, but what if the damage is already done by then? It should not be a case of too little too late when the defending champions come to town in two weeks time.
Bale has been the White Hart Lane side's standout player this campaign, coming in contention for a possible Premier League Player of the Year award for his consistent and remarkable showings week-in, week-out. Having him unavailable during what might be his side's most important fortnight of the season, must be hard for Villas-Boas to digest. With 23 goals and 14 assists in all competitions to go with his spectacular match-winning displays, Bale's rise from a defensive position in a No. 3 shirt to an offensive masterclass in the No. 11 jersey has been a joy to watch.
The task in front of them is by no means easy. Chelsea, despite being in their busiest spell of games this season have done relatively well in their showings. On the back of their 2-1 upset at Southampton, the Blues have shown true resolve by beating Manchester United in the FA Cup and Rubin Kazan in the Europa League in a matter of days. The key - depth in squad.
Tottenham's bench will have to rise to the occasion. This is the time for them to shine and prove their mettle to the coach as well as the Spurs' faithful.
An in-form Jan Vertonghen (who has surprisingly scored 8 goals this season) along with the dependable Scott Parker need to assume greater responsibility in the games to come and make sure they lead the inexperienced yet talented likes of Kyle Naughton, Jake Livermore and Gylfi Sigurdsson and get positive results if they are to stand any chance of claiming a European spot. Sigurdsson needs to carry on his good form from off-late and fire for Tottenham. And this well and truly is the chance for Lewis Holtby to prove his worth as he should get an extended run in the side.
|Hightime for Holtby | The ex-Schalke man needs to star for Tottenham in their bid for Champions League qualification|
Tottenham supporters would have thought the bad days were behind them when their side won 2-1 away to Swansea after three successive defeats at the hands of Liverpool (3-2), Inter Milan (4-1) and Fulham (0-1). But injuries have come back to play spoilsport and now threaten to ruin Spurs' party in the league so far. Another worrying statistic for Tottenham will be that they have played a game more (31) than all the other teams in the top-6 in the Premier League at the moment. Which means their 2-point lead over Chelsea who are on 55 points would be non-existent if the latter were to make the most of the of their game in hand. That, even if Spurs were to win.
The obstacles are plenty, but if there ever was a time for the current Tottenham crop to make a name for themselves in history, this would be it. The odds are unequivocably stacked against them in terms of injuries, form, fixtures as well as the good run enjoyed by other sides. Villas-Boas faces a phase which could propel his managerial career to greater heights or could just end being yet another case of what might have been.
For a side doing remarkably well and stepping it up over the last few seasons in both the league and continent, this upcoming challenge which has a number of facets to it, is the perfect opportunity to excel in and raise their credentials to a much more commendable level. Champions League qualification would be a mark of huge progress for Tottenham which will speak volumes of Villas-Boas' work in his first season in charge.
And so the next two weeks will either make the Spurs' season a memorable one or turn it into one worth remembering with a pinch of regret. Can they turn it around and show everyone that they were always the early bird? Only time will tell...
Will Tottenham make the grade and qualify for Europe come the end of the season? Let us know by placing a comment or by getting touch with the writer @Harsh8Shah
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