Pundit explains why Spurs’ top-four rivals will benefit from playing behind closed doors

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Image: SpursWeb

The race for the top four spots looks like it is set to go right down to the wire with nine games left to play this season.

Spurs are competing with Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United and Arsenal for two Champions League qualification spots, with an extra one potentially opening up if Manchester City’s ban by UEFA is upheld.

With just eight points separating Chelsea in fourth spot from Arsenal in ninth, the race is too close to call as things stand.

Tottenham will certainly have their work cut out if they hope to finish in the top four, as they find themselves seven points behind the Blues.

Various pundits have opined on how playing in empty stadiums could affect various teams, with Danny Murphy claiming that possession-based teams could have an advantage (Daily Mail).

However, Danny Higginbotham has insisted that teams who employ a pragmatic approach are likely to be the ones who benefit the most due to the lack of pressure from the fans.

He insisted that Wolves are best placed to take advantage of playing behind closed doors and backed Nuno Espirito Santo’s side to secure a top-four place.

In his column for The Sun, the former Stoke defender wrote: “All the talk is about the race for the Champions League places — but discount Wolves at your peril.

“If there is one side that could really benefit from playing behind closed doors, it’s them.

“Level on points with Sheffield United and five behind fourth-placed Chelsea, Nuno Espirito Santo’s underdogs are not being talked about as much as Manchester United or Tottenham.

“For me, Wolves are one of the best teams in the league at controlling games out of possession.

“If they have struggled, it’s been at their Molineux home where the onus is on them with their crowd wanting front-foot football.

“‘Their seven draws at home are more than anyone, dropping points against the likes of Burnley, Southampton, Newcastle and Brighton.

“If they were able to play like they tend to on the road, would some of those have turned into victories?

“But it’s very hard to set up like that from the off at home against teams below you, as the crowd will demand you go for it.

“To be able to sit back and play like the away team on the counter you need that first goal, ideally from a quick start.

“But with no supporters for the rest of the season, that onus will not be on them in quite the same way.

“In these unique times, Wolves have the potential to play in a unique way.

“At their best they are incredibly organised and when playing away lead the opposition into a false sense of security.

“They will sit off and allow opposition centre-backs or defensive midfielders to come out with the ball, letting them go in a certain direction.

“But once they win the ball back they are so quick to utilise that leftover space and drive right at the heart of open defences.

“Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves both have the passing range and accuracy to find that space on the turnover for the speedy Adama Traore and all-round striker Raul Jimenez.”

Spurs Web Opinion

I agree with Higginbotham that teams who employ a more pragmatic style of play, as Wolves do, will benefit the most from playing in front of empty stadiums. I believe this could also aid Mourinho in setting us up to play on the counter, particularity in the big games at home.

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