After a run of four wins in the last five, Spurs find themselves sitting precariously in fourth place. But we're approaching the fixture-packed Christmas period, and with four matches over the next two weeks and only seven points separating 3rd place from 12th, anything can happen.
Our schedule through New Year's looks like this:
Aston Villa (A)
These are four eminently winnable matches. And we absolutely need to win them. We need to make a statement going into the transfer window that we are capable of competing at top end of the table. I believe in AVB, and I think Daniel Levy does too, but I imagine our vampire chairman will feel a lot more comfortable opening his purse strings if we're sitting pretty in the Champions League places. (Or who the hell knows, maybe he'll think if we're good enough to be in 4th place then there's no reason to spend any money. In which case I will personally fly to London and rub his bald little head with sand paper.)
Four matches, four wins. Anything less is unacceptable. Stoke have won one single solitary match on the road all season. It would be unforgivable to lose to them. But to be fair, they've also only lost three, half as many as Spurs have this season. And with nine draws under their belt a draw seems the most likely result.
I don't care. We're at White Hart Lane. They lost to Norwich. They better lose to us. We can't take these three points for granted, but there is no reason they aren't ours for the taking. Peter Crouch is injured and Gareth Bale should be back. Perhaps most importantly, Mousa Dembele is over his injury woes and Scott Parker is healthy again. This is the toughest match of our run and a win here will give us the impetus to roll over the cupcake sides we face next.
Aston Villa and Sunderland follow. Both teams teeter above the drop. Let's push them over the edge. Six points from these fixtures should be a given. But we are Spurs, and we tend to lose to crappy teams (see our recent match against Arsenal). Eff that noise. Let's put a string of results together that gives people something to think about. We've won four out of 5. Great. Now let's win 9 out of 10. That makes a statement that we mean business.
The last match of our run to the new year is Reading at home. I shouldn't even have to say anything about this. If we don't win against a team who just got curbstomped by Arsenal in embarrassing fashion, then we have no business pretending we're worthy of the Champions League.
Four matches, four wins.
That's all we can do. Arsenal, Chelsea, and Everton, our biggest competitors for those CL spots all have tougher schedules than we do, and we need to take advantage of it.
Let's look at their schedules.
Arsenal have reared their stupid ugly head and sit only two points behind us. They play before we do on Saturday and a win sees them spending a few hours in third place. We cannot allow them to get used to that feeling. Their upcoming matches are: Wigan (A), West Ham (H), Newcastle (H), Southampton (A)
West Ham have put together some decent results and Newcastle are still a formidable team, despite being a shadow of last year's iteration. Wigan and Southampton should prove comfortable wins, even in their own backyards. Two tricky ties, two cakewalks, and a two point deficit. There is no reason Arsenal should come through this stretch ahead of us.
Everton sees Fellaini suspended for their next three matches, and without their big gun they should struggle. Their schedule sees: West Ham (A), Wigan (H), Chelsea (H), Newcastle (A).
Wigan aside, these all have the potential to trip up the blue half of Merseyside. It's entirely possible that without Frollaini they make life difficult for themselves and slip away from CL contention.
Chelsea return from their embarrassing defeat in the Club World Cup with a point to prove. Unfortunately for them, Rafa Benitez is the guy to prove it, and nobody has any confidence in that happening. They face: Aston Villa (H), Norwich (A), Everton (A), QPR (H).
Despite Villa's confidence boosting victory over Relegationpool, they remain a fairly soft touch. Away matches to an impressively resurgent Norwich side and CL-chasing Everton are possible banana skins.
But you know what? I don't care what anyone else does over this period. If we win our matches, we sit in fourth place going into the new year at a bare minimum. Yeah, it's possible our competition chokes and give us a little breathing room, but I'd rather not rely on it. We don't need the likes of Norwich or Newcastle to do our dirty work.
We need to approach this stretch with a to dare is to do attitude. We control our destiny. Our competition could slip up and make life easy, or they could just as easily stay hot on our heels. Their matches our beyond our control. All we can do is beat the crappy teams we're faced with. We can even come out of this with 10 points from four games and still be in a good position. But why settle for that crap? The Champions League is here for the taking. Take it.
Four Matches, four wins. Let's kick some ass.