Harry Kane, among others, has proclaimed that Spurs need to keep focused on winning in the UEFA Europa League because this season the winner is guaranteed entry into the club’s real ambition: Champions League football. Whether Kane doubts his side’s ability to finish Top Four in a Premiership he has barely sniffed is a different question—according to the books, it is still very much a longshot proposition at 5 to 1.
But are Spurs’ prospects at winning this Thursday night affair any better? Or in fact, might they be significantly worse—so much worse, in fact, that one should not raise any eyebrows if Poch goes all Brendan Rodgers at some point and punts away a game or two to ensure a strong XI for a crucial Premiership fixture?
First off, tonight’s game really matters. A loss to Asteras and Spurs will be forced to win both their remaining games to advance, and even then might have to do so only through goal differential versus the Greeks. (Oh yes… Hugo and Harry’s howler could haunt still) A draw is marginally better as it keeps us ahead of Asteras and would ensure a first place finish with two wins and a Besiktas-Asteras draw in Greece. But only a win tonight creates a fairly easy path to the next round—as Spurs would only need to win one of the remaining two matches.
But so we make it—joining 23 other clubs from this competition and 8 others still to be determined dropping down from the Champions League. We would have to win 4 consecutive home/away ties and a final in Warsaw. If Spurs would be 50-50 for each of those pairings, well that’s a simple 1 in 32 chance—or 3%… If you consider the quality of the field, however, there could very well be several matchups where we would be underdogs. As of this moment here are the Champions League sides that look to drop down:
Juventus or Olympiakos
Benfica or Zenit
Roma, CSKA Moscow or Man City
Aside from the tastiness of a fight with AVB, two separate potential trips to Lisbon, the same for Italy—there are a bunch of teams here that are tough asks. Spurs have been battered and embarrassed by both of the Premiership sides they could face (though if City lose to Bayern they should be consigned to last place and be completely booted from Europe), the likes of Juventus, Olympiakos, Benfica and Roma will be tough continental fights, and either Portugal or Russian club are hardly pushovers.
Add to that from the current Europa lineup the likes of Sevilla, Napoli, Steaua Bucharest, Fiorentina, Villareal, Legia Warsaw, Torino, Dinamo Moscow, Celtic and Inter Milan—Spanish, Italian and Eastern European clubs that are all comparable to Tottenham plus the Glaswegian allure of Celtic—and one can see the issue here.
3% chance or……. what? Maybe a 15-20% chance of Top Four? And if United keep struggling and Southampton finally come down to earth, maybe more like 25-30%? Poch should keep trying to win in Europe, but hardly at all costs. Beginning tonight.
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