Tomorrow Spurs face relegation candidates Brighton in their 35th Premier League match of the season. After the weekend’s surprise defeats for Arsenal and Manchester United, this week could be a massive one for Spurs.
At present all four teams chasing the two remaining Champions League places have played 34 matches. Here’s a breakdown of what each have left in the league:
Tottenham Hotspur: 67 points
Chelsea: 66 points
Arsenal: 66 points
4/24: at Wolverhampton
4/28: at Leicester City
5/2: Valencia (UEL Semi-Final)
5/5: Brighton & Hove Albion
5/9: at Valencia (UEL Semi-Final)
5/12: at Burnley
Manchester United: 64 points
4/24: Manchester City
5/5: at Huddersfield Town
5/12: Cardiff City
Analyzing the Next Two Rounds
In one sense, this looks like it is still a very competitive top four race: Four teams vying for two spots and separated by only three points. But things could shift dramatically in the next week.
Spurs face Brighton first, one of two teams that are still in a relegation battle at the foot of the table. That could bode ill for Spurs, of course, as Albion is desperate for points, especially given their horrible run-in which also includes a trip to Arsenal and a home fixture with Manchester City.
Even so if you had to choose an easiest opponent out of the four that each Champions League contender will face on Match Day 35, it is Brighton.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will be traveling to face what is probably the seventh best team in England in Wolverhampton Wanderers. Chelsea face Burnley today in what should be a very winnable fixture for the Blues. United are likely to drop points on Wednesday when they face Manchester City. FiveThirtyEight only gives them a 35% chance of any kind of result and only a 15% chance of winning.
Supposing that Arsenal drew at Wolves, Chelsea won, and United lost, we would head into Match Day 36 with Spurs in third on 70 points, Chelsea in fourth on 69 points, Arsenal in fifth on 67 points, and United in sixth on 64 points. All four of those results are plausible, particularly given that Wolves have already taken points off Spurs, Manchester United, and Chelsea in recent months.
The April fixtures conclude with Spurs hosting West Ham (FiveThirtyEight has Spurs at 80% likelihood of winning) while Chelsea travel to Old Trafford and Arsenal visit Leicester.
If Spurs win that weekend, they would be on 73 points. If Chelsea won, they’d be on 72 and United would be out of the top four battle. If Arsenal won, they would be on 70 points and still lurking. But if Arsenal dropped points against Leicester as well, they’d be on 67 or 68 points, trailing Spurs by five or six points with two fixtures to play—meaning Spurs would be heavy favorites to finish in the top four, having already clinched a finish ahead of United and needing very little from their final two fixtures to mathematically secure top four, regardless of what Arsenal did in their fixtures. It’s also possible, of course, that United takes points off Chelsea, which further helps Tottenham’s top four odds.
A Thin Squad and a European Semifinal
Of course, there’s another aspect to this as well: After the match with West Ham, Spurs will be hosting Ajax in the Champions League semifinals. If Spurs could have the top four sewn up heading into that fixture, they are in far better position to rotate against Bournemouth in hopes of keeping what is a laughably thin squad fresh ahead of the return leg in Amsterdam.
This being Spurs, however, we cannot rule out calamity. The final two rounds of the league see Spurs facing much stronger opponents than either Chelsea or Arsenal, meaning it is likely that both our London rivals could make up ground on us in the season’s final week. We have, of course, suffered humiliating late-season defeats at relegation battlers in the past. But rounds 35 and 36 of the Premier League line up favorably for Spurs, which is why our FiveThirtyEight top four odds are now almost back to the level they were before our disastrous March.
If we can pick up two more wins this week at the North London Stadium, then we will be in a very strong position for top four heading into the final two matches. If Spurs drop points in either or both of these fixtures, the story could, of course, be very different.