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Norwich City vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: One is the magic(alist) number

Tottenham is on the cusp of returning to the Champions League.

Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

What a season it has been. Tottenham Hotspur looked dead in the water, destined for another lackluster year, but somehow the club is set to return to the Champions League for the first time in three seasons after a chaotic run-in. Only one of two things must happen for Spurs to clinch fourth place on Sunday:

  • Tottenham win or draw (thanks to goal difference) against Norwich
  • Arsenal draw or loss against Everton

To be in this position is nearly unfathomable. Tottenham could not have conducted a worse managerial search over the summer, but credit to Daniel Levy for pulling the plug on Nuno Espirito Santo after El Sackico, snatching up Antonio Conte ahead of Manchester United (who are surely regretting that now).

Despite Conte’s impressive turnaround, Spurs still needed help in order to claim fourth. Arsenal was happy to oblige, losing plenty of winnable fixtures down the stretch before imploding in the North London Derby and at Newcastle. As a result, even a draw against terrible 20th-place Norwich City this weekend will secure the Champions League football next fall.

Norwich City (20th, 22 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (4th, 68pts)

Date: Sunday, May 22
Time: 11:00 am ET, 4:00 pm UK
Location: Carrow Road, Norwich, England
TV: Syfy, Peacock Premium (USA)

Arsenal (5th, 66pts) vs. Everton (16th, 39pts)

Date: Sunday, May 22
Time: 11:00 am ET, 4:00 pm UK
Location: Emirates Stadium, London, England
TV: CNBC, Peacock Premium (USA)

Norwich is pretty terrible. Over their past 15 matches, the Canaries have scored 10 total goals, averaging just 0.9 xG per match. They have scored only one time in their past five fixtures and have won just five matches all season, the most “impressive” being a November win over Brentford, who now sits in 11th place.

Spurs supporters are understandably nervous given the club’s...untimely collapses in the past, but given that even a draw is sufficient, the fear level should be pretty low against this Norwich side. The Tottenham attack has been rampant under Conte, and one goal is likely enough to survive, though odds are the scoreline will be much harsher than just that.

One player who will not be satisfied with a single goal is Heung-Min Son, who enters the weekend one goal behind Mohamed Salah for the Golden Boot. With Salah likely out again, a brace for Son would incredibly earn him the scoring crown. Regardless of if he gets it or not, it has been a spectacular season for the charismatic Son, but he has a real shot against the league’s worst defense to not only match Salah but jump ahead of him completely.

Three themes

  1. Spurs came out ahead when the teams met in North London in early December. Lucas Moura blasted the opener in from outside the box, and second half goals from Davinson Sanchez and the Golden Boot hopeful made it a clean 3-0 victory. Norwich did have a fair bit of possession, but given the circumstances and squad refresh since then, expect Tottenham to control this one.
  2. I have admittedly talked about the top four nearly every preview post, but there is not any shame in treating this as a big accomplishment. City and Liverpool are clearly a tier above, but despite Conte’s struggles against Chelsea, Spurs have really been the third best team in the league since he arrived. A fourth-place finish and Champions League berth is extremely deserved and a remarkable finish considering where the club was six month ago.
  3. Arsenal looked completely dejected on Monday and it would not be surprising to see points dropped against now-safe Everton, which would give Spurs fourth regardless of the Norwich match. It looks like this will be the sixth-straight season that Tottenham finishes ahead of its rival which is astonishingly almost expected at this point? That does not make it any less sweet, however, especially given the way Arsenal did everything it could to hand over fourth to close out the year.