Tottenham Hotspur are still basking in the glow of their 3-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, putting them in a fantastic position to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Spurs now find themselves in the midst of a ten day stretch with no matches to play after what felt like the most chaotic two month schedule possible. The roster is getting healthier by the day, and with Harry Kane possibly returning for the Burnley match and Dele slated for sometime in March, there is cause for optimism.
The remainder of the schedule is not a kind one and there are plenty of big matches remaining for all of the clubs chasing the top four as well as the title. Here’s a quick look at the final run-in for each club that have hopes of getting one of the coveted spots in Europe’s biggest competition, and please forgive the crudeness of the table as my initial attempts with Chorus’ table creator did not end well:
Manchester City have played one more match than everyone else and have a +54 GD, which is ridiculous. They just finished beating Chelsea so badly that they knocked the Blues all the way down to sixth based on tiebreakers. Liverpool’s next match against Manchester United could really shape the title race while United are looking to solidify their hold on fourth place. Arsenal and Chelsea, while still in the top four race, are both not in the best of forms and could find themselves on the outside looking in again, though there’s a long way to go for the season.
Taking a hard look at the schedules, Liverpool and City have a favorable run-in. In regards to Liverpool, going to Old Trafford is no picnic, but their remaining matches against the Sky Six are Spurs and Chelsea, both of which are at Anfield. After that? Not much really sticks out. Watford are hit and miss. Everton will forever be chasing seventh place. Wolves on the final day could cause some problems, but it’s another match at Anfield.
Manchester City’s schedule might actually be better. They still have to go to United and will host Spurs at the Etihad, and while a trip to Palace may not be a walk in the park given their recent run of form, there are a lot bottom half teams in that list to take on.
Our beloved Spurs, however, have a brutal schedule remaining. Going to Stamford Bridge is never a good time, and that’s followed up with a visit from Arsenal. They’ll look for a bit of revenge against Crystal Palace at home for their FA Cup elimination, then there are still trips to Anfield and the Etihad to look forward to. Spurs last three matches aren’t bad at all, with two of them at home against West Ham and Everton.
United’s schedule is all over the place. They still have Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea remaining. United can make a lot of noise and spoil a season or two with some results. They also have to feel like they’re playing with house money thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turning the direction of the club around. They just took their first loss under his management this week against PSG, but their league form is solid.
Chelsea and Arsenal are both dealing with some problems. Lord only knows what Sarri is saying to the Blues now and how many of them he wants to rage sell at this point. Arsenal may be in more of a crisis than Chelsea, though. The Gunners just took a loss to BATE Borisov in the Europa League and will be without Alexandre Lacazette for that second leg. While Arsenal are still well within striking distance of fourth place, Europa League may be a better option if they falter.
So what’s the expectation for Spurs?
Let’s group the remaining matches into three sets: Matches that should be three points, toss-ups, and expected losses. I have no interest in guessing draws because we do not draw.
Group One (Three point matches): Burnley, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Brighton, Huddersfield, West Ham, Bournemouth, Everton.
Total points available: 24
Group Two (Toss-up matches): Chelsea, Arsenal
Total points available: 6
Group Three (Expected losses): Liverpool, Manchester City
Total points available: 6
Now, before anyone goes nuts in the comments, this is basically the eye test. It’s factoring in form, location, and history. Group one is pretty clear: These are matches where Spurs are clearly the better side and should take all of the points. I will acknowledge that Palace could be a challenge and we all know that West Ham and Everton randomly get motivated, but Spurs should beat them. I don’t think there are any arguments for the rest. They’re all bad except for Bournemouth and Spurs destroyed them in December.
Group two is where things start to get cloudy. Both Chelsea and Arsenal, as mentioned before, are having up and down seasons and neither are in a good spot right now. The reason Chelsea goes into this toss-up group is because it’s at Stamford Bridge and that place is a house of horrors for Tottenham. Getting eliminated from the Carabao Cup there hurt, and while the Blues are in disarray, they can easily turn it on and put in a performance. As for Arsenal, I was leaning towards slotting them into Group One, but it’s still the North London Derby. They will still get fired up for this, though Spurs have split the series this season so far with them. It’s a shame this isn’t at the new stadium.
Then there’s Group Three: Pool and City. Spurs haven’t won at Anfield in the league since 2011 when VDV and Modric handed the Reds a 2-0 defeat. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1993 when Teddy Sheringham was still playing. There are some draws sprinkled in there, but in this season? Drawing is for art students. Still, unless there is a catastrophic injury or crazy dip in form by Liverpool, this is a match that any points from will be bonus, just like it would be at the Etihad. City don’t have the same track record of dominance over Spurs in Manchester, but it’s still a tough place to play and City are flying right now. Spurs won’t have to see them until April and the races may be a lot clearer at that point.
Ultimately, I expect Spurs to beat Arsenal at home and lose the other three. Of course I hope that I’m wrong and we run the table but that’s not likely. If that all happens, it puts Spurs on 87 points to close out the season, which is exactly the pace that FiveThirtyEight has. In many seasons, that’s good enough to win the title. This season? It may only get Spurs third place, but in a season where there have been numerous injuries? That’s pretty damn good, and Spurs still have more than a puncher’s chance at the Champions League.
What would Jake Taylor say in this situation? There’s only one thing left to do...