It is well and truly squeaky bum time for Tottenham Hotspur. We're level on points with Chelsea and are two points ahead of Arsenal but we've played a game more.
Everton, who represent the darkest of horses sit 4 points back of Arsenal.
Currently the ladder reads:
3rd Chelsea played 31, 58 points + 28
4th Spurs played 32, 58 points +15
5th Arsenal played 31, 56 points +27
6th Everton played 31, 52 points +12
While I feel that Everton don't have much hope of making the Champions League the reason why I've included them is because they have games against both Arsenal and Chelsea before the campaign ends so there is some scope for them to make up points.
I think it's fair to assume that any aspirations we had of reaching second place are now dashed. Our last six fixtures in the Premier League are
Man City (H)
Time to be decided: Chelsea (A)
Looking at that fixture list makes me nervous. I'm thinking we'll need a record better than 4-0-2 to make top 4 which means we will need to beat at least one of Man City and Chelsea. Wigan aren't a certain win at any time of the season and when you factor the Wiganlona factor since it is April after all, we will need to be on our game to win that one. Southampton have gone on a nice little run lately beating City, Liverpool and Chelsea at St Mary's however their away form has been less impressive. Stoke and Sunderland have crumbled completely but will be involved in a relegation battle by May so nothing can be ruled out.
The upcoming game against Manchester City is one that we simply have to win. We should have Bale and Lennon back fit while a giant 10 day rest after the Basel game means that AVB will have time to prepare a meticulous plan for City. Thankfully City haven't come close to the heights they hit last season and we nearly got a draw last time without Dembele so I'm cautiously optimistic about that one. Adebayor and Siggurdson are hitting form, Kyle Walker looked excellent against Everton while those in the squad looking a little tired (I'm looking at you SuperJan) could use the rest given to us by the 10 days off. Also, apparently David Silva picked up a hamstring injury against United this morning so hopefully he won't play against us.
The game against Chelsea is looking like it's going to be in May sometime due to FA Cup/Europa League commitments and could very well be the decider in the Champions League race. I'm not going to attempt to predict that one since it's over a month away but what is clear is that the Chelsea we will come up against at Stamford Bridge is not the same Chelsea who beat us at White Hart Lane. We're also going to be a better Tottenham with Bale and Dembele included unlike last time and minus the big game shenanigans of William Gallas. We have already broken one big hoodoo this year when we won at Old Trafford and I believe we'll need to break our Stamford Bridge hoodoo as well.
Man U (H)
Arsenal have entered the same phase they did last year - winning games they should be drawing or losing. What can be both a blessing and a curse at this point is that Arsenal have three games in a week. The good news is that it will fatigue them immensely. The bad news is that they play Norwich, Everton and Fulham, the first two at the Emirates. I can't see anything but a win for Arsenal against Norwich but Everton and Fulham can take points off of Arsenal mainly due to excellent individual players providing a big threat in Kevin Mirallas, Fellaini and Berbatov. They still have to play Man United and I can't see them winning that match. They also play Wiganlona like we do and Newcastle away isn't an easy end to the season because Papiss Cisse.
Man U (A)
Aston Villa (A)
TBD - Tottenham (H)
Chelsea have a hard run in. They have to play us, Man United, Everton and also their bogey team - LOLpool. Demba Ba's picked up an injury so they could very well be forced to field Fernando Torres up front in every game which can only be good for Tottenham since he'll get worn out again very quickly. The Benitez factor plays in our favour since they've not been the same since he took over. Not to mention their other games aren't exactly 3 points in the bank. Fulham, Swansea and Villa have given teams a lot of trouble this season.
I'm going to call that we essentially need to win out from here. We can't afford to drop points against City considering Arsenal could possibly be 7 points ahead of us going into that game while we can't afford to lose against Chelsea but depending on the table a draw could be ok if Chelsea go on a poor run. We definitely have to win our other four games against Wigan, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland. With Basel up next our season is either seven games long if we don't go through or ten if we make the Europa League final. I'm sure this squad has 10 big games left in them and I'm hoping Bale has 10 more goals in him.
Going into the Europa League I firmly believe we need to continue to take it seriously. We need the boost that a win will provide and with 10 days between Basel and Man City we can afford to play a full strength team. We saw Tom Carroll withdrawn at half time for the u21s suggesting he might have a role to play in Switzerland.
For this game I'd like to see
Walker - Dawson - Vertonghen - Benny
Dembele - Parker - Holtby
Ceballos - Adebayor - Siggurdson
I think we need to give Ceballos a go. I don't think it will happen but I think we need to. Dempsey was awful against Everton and he hasn't shown at any point this season that he's actually good enough to cut it at a Champions League level club. We can't do Naughton or Vertonghen at left back anymore, it's just too painful to watch especially against quick tricky wingers. 4-3-3 because we need presence in midfield. Dembele can drive forward while Siggurdson can do his thing on the left FRAABing as he wants. Get Benny doing his overlapping runs and Walker quickly pushing up the pitch to stretch the play to give Dembele, Siggurdson, Adebayor and Ceballos more space. Sorry to Brad but we need Hugo's quicker reactions in such a big tie.
Now if we progress to the semis the likely pool of opponents is Fenerbache, Benfica and Chelsea. We all know that if this is how it pans out we will draw Chelsea. Because narrative. Which means we'll play Chelsea three times over the course of the next month and a half and we get to show them how good AVB really is. Then we'll see much more of this.