After a day celebrating—again—the joys of Spurs’ young core as they spearheaded a marvelous come-from-behind victory in Berlin, and thanking the football Gods none were hurt (though Mousa Dembele’s ankle is apparently acting up in Belgium), it is time to look hard at the final seven weeks of this extraordinary season.
If we are to have hope of hunting down the Foxes, we must win all three home fixtures: United, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion. No slips, no late equalizers to turn three points into one, no Spursy moments. In the cold light of dawn one could speculate that one of these games will bite us and have points dropped. Yet how many of Leicester’s available 21 points will be squandered? Could they possibly lose three and draw one—thus allowing Spurs to win the title even if we lose an away game and draw one at the Lane? I wouldn’t count on it. A more realistic outcome for the Foxes would be seven or eight points dropped—either a loss and two draws, or two losses and a draw to join four victories.
So to win the title Spurs must drop no more than three points, and possibly just two. A loss… or two draws. So let’s assume we win the three home fixtures, because if we don’t this all becomes an academic exercise pretty quickly. Now let’s examine the four away fixtures—where Spurs must either win three with a loss or a draw.
Spurs haven’t won at Liverpool since 2010-11, when we earned the first of two straight clean sheets in a 2-0 victory. A 0-0 draw followed, and then S+S and the Brodg won three straight, with Spurs conceding ten goals (2-3, 0-4, 2-3). This year’s defense is nothing like those last three teams, and Suarez is long gone, Sturridge is a shell of his former shelf, and it’s Klopp and all that emotion on the touch line instead of Rodgers and those shiny teeth. Could we win Saturday? Of course. Will we? This is the first acid test of a series—championship sides win these games, pretenders do not.
Away to Stoke in the winter amidst the cold, hard rain. It’s already being established as the litmus test for the likes of Pep Guardiola as he ventures north to England next season. The game won’t be held in winter, and we’ll see about the rain. Spurs have won three of the last five fixtures there, but of course were soundly beaten last season—3-0. The Potters have nothing to play for—I feel better about this game than any of the others.
There is a grim statistic, and we’ll hear a lot more about it as this game draws nigh, particularly if the gap narrows between Spurs and Leicester. Over the history of the Premier League, Spurs have never won at Stamford Bridge. Never. 8 draws—two in the last five years (both of the final two Bale sides)—and 15 defeats. In the last two seasons we have failed to score and conceded seven. This completes the troika of recent away stadia horror, along with Anfield and the Etihad. We exorcised one of the demons earlier this season in Manchester. We may get another on Saturday. Despite Chelsea’s decline, despite the lame duck manager, despite several of their regulars unwilling or unable to play on a weekly basis, this will be a very difficult ask. We may be able to settle for a draw—if we can get it.
St. James Park
What to make of Newcastle? Can Rafa get them out of the drop zone? Will this game mean anything to them or will they be QPR to 2012’s City? Newcastle has had the quirky ability to gain victories over Spurs when they shouldn’t the past few years. They won this fixture in 2012-13, but lost handily the last two seasons (3-1 and 4-0). If we go north with a chance, I just can’t see this Spurs team failing to get a result.
We’ve lost just twice away in the League this year, and only once in the nearly eight months since the opener at Old Trafford. We may not be able to afford another away defeat, but the prospects are daunting. Champions produce such miracles—we’ll find out soon whether this team are the stuff of champions.
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