Update: Join the live match thread
It all comes down to this, kind of. Yeah, Tottenham have to beat Fulham so it does all come down to that, but then there's Chelsea next week and Arsenal and Newcastle this week. So it kind of comes down to this, which is good because if anything was straightforward in this clusterfuck of a season then it would be disconcerting.
Let's lay it out:
- If Tottenham win, they are guaranteed a top four finish.
- If Tottenham win and Arsenal lose or draw at West Brom, Spurs will finish in third place.
- If Tottenham draw and Arsenal then lose by two goals, Spurs finish ahead of the Gunners, but Newcastle can finish ahead of both for third place if they then win.
- If Tottenham lose and Newcastle win then the Magpies take fourth (or third) and Spurs are in fifth.
- Even if Spurs win or draw and finish fourth place, they are not guaranteed a place in the Champions League because if Chelsea win the Champions League final next week then they will take England's fourth spot in next year's competition.
If either of the last two happen then there is a strong possibility that all of Tottenham drinks the Kool-Aid so let's try to avoid that. Putting it simply: beat Fulham and there is a good chance that everyone survives.
Luckily for Spurs, Fulham will be without the injured Clint Dempsey. That is obviously a knock for the Cottagers, who have been fortunate enough to watch the American develop into one of the better players in the league, but this is not the Fulham of old that would be lucky to score one goal a game.
As Tottenham supporters should know, Martin Jol likes to attack and he's built himself a pretty fine attacking squad at Craven Cottage. Obviously Dempsey in the linchpin, but there is still Pavel Pogrebnyak, Damien Duff, Moussa Dembele and Danny Murphy, which, while solid, won't scare you unless you have Tottenham's defense.
With Benoit Assou-Ekotto out injured and Danny Rose suspended for last week's red card, Harry Redknapp has two options at left back, neither one good: William Gallas or Gareth Bale. Good luck there.
Outside of that (and it's a big "that"), Spurs are at full strength. That means they need width from Aaron Lennon and Bale, even if he's at left back, and the good early passing from Luka Modric to strike quick. There's the lurking Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor. In short, there are a lot of things that has Spurs right rightly worried of the match becoming another cross and corner fest.
If that happens, Spurs are in trouble. Nobody needs to be reminded that Tottenham are next to useless when a match becomes a series of crosses, but Fulham are also the last team to do that against. Brede Hangeland can dominate in the air and Aaron Hughes, John Arne Riise and the rest of the Cottagers' crew are no slouches either. The "who is bigger game" is all Fulham's.
But Fulham don't have much to play for. Spurs do. There's that Champions League thing, which is kind of a little important.
"To finish third would be an amazing achievement,'' Modric said. "We deserve to finish third if you look at how we have played over the season.''
Now I don't disagree with Luka often, or ever, but let's get one thing straight. Don't win tomorrow and you don't deserve shit.