With the Premier League season set to resume on June 17, it looks as if Tottenham Hotspur have their work cut out for them if they are to finish in the top four for a fifth consecutive season.
Spurs currently sit seven points off Chelsea in fourth place and four points off Manchester United in fifth spot, which could be enough to see the Lilywhites qualify for the Champions League if Manchester City’s two-year ban by UEFA is upheld (Evening Standard).
Harry Kane has revealed that the Spurs squad believe they can qualify for the Champions League if they win seven or eight of the remaining nine games this season (Spurs TV).
However, Tottenham do have several advantages over their rivals when it comes to the race for the top four.
One look at the remaining fixtures for the sides competing for Champions League qualification makes it clear that Spurs have one of the easiest run-ins.
Here’s a look at who Spurs have left to play:
Tottenham’s remaining fixtures:
Manchester United (H)
West Ham United (H)
Sheffield United (A)
Newcastle United (A)
Leicester City (H)
Crystal Palace (A)
Spurs play four of their direct rivals in Manchester United, Arsenal, Leicester and Sheffield United which is an advantage when it comes to trying to make up the points deficit, albeit through tough matches.
Jose Mourinho’s men will also be playing three of the four aforementioned sides at home rather than away, in stark contrast to their rivals who have some daunting away trips coming up.
While some might think home advantage will not have much of a bearing given the lack of fans at the stadia, from what we have seen from the Bundesliga action so far, it still makes a great deal of difference.
Jose Mourinho now also has a fully fit squad to work with, a luxury he has not had since joining Tottenham in November. We know that Jose is at his best tactically when he has options at his disposal.
During his short time at the club so far, the Spurs boss has pretty much been forced to go with what has been available to him. Now that he has a multitude of attacking and midfield options to chose from, I expect us to be set up differently, possibly even using a 4-3-3 rather than the 4-2-3-1 he has favoured so far.
Finally, Mourinho and his coaching staff have had no time to work with the squad on the training pitch, which has proven a major hindrance in getting their ideas across.
That explains why the 57-year-old has opted not to change things too drastically and stick with the patterns of play that the team are used to. Now that he has essentially been given a pre-season to work with the squad, he will have worked on his own specific tactical drills.
Mourinho admitted that he and his coaching staff used the shutdown to analyse the teams’ matches so far and plot a path going forward (Sky Sports).
I believe we will see Spurs adopt a much more coherent style of play when the league resumes as opposed to the haphazard setups we have been seeing from game to game during the Special One’s time at the club so far.
The only issue, however, is that nine matches is not a lot of time to make up a seven-point gap, particularly considering that the players are going to take two to three games to get up to speed.
We often seen some strange results at the start of the season and, given the uncertainty over teams’ match fitness levels, it could take a few games to get into our stride, by which time our chances of finishing in the top four could well be over.
All in all, we have as good a chance as anybody of finishing fourth despite the points difference, but a lot will depend on how we start. A win over Manchester United in the first game back will set us up nicely for an assault on the top four and could be crucial in giving the players some much-needed belief.
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