With results going their way the day before, the stage was perfectly set for Tottenham to increase their chances of a top four finish at the end of the season and all they had to do, was get the better of their pesky neighbours Arsenal. However, Tottenham have a habit of doing things the hard way and if they are to return to the Champions League next season, it may need something rather heroic, in the league or Europa League, between now and the end of the season.
That’s not to say that Jose Mourinho’s men are out of the race to return to European club football’s premier competition, it is more that they now find themselves playing catchup to their nearest rivals.
They do so, after a rather meek display in the most recent North London derby and after suffering defeat to the Gunners, the knives are once again out for a man who has been briefed to finally deliver silverware to N17.
Of course, Tottenham still have two opportunities to fulfil this remit by the end of the season and although they will go into the Carabao Cup final as underdogs, they have at least had Manchester City’s number once already this season.
However, City were a much different beast when the two teams met back in November and, if anything, their 2-0 defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was the one act that has since sparked them into life. Athough Tottenham will be hoping for some cup final magic on April 25th, they may be better suited to pinning their trophy hopes on the continent instead and that comes in the shape of Europa League success.
After Sunday’s loss to Arsenal, the Europa League now takes on even further importance for Tottenham and, although it would be foolish for the Spurs to put all their eggs in a European basket right now, it may prove their best hope and they are certainly among the contenders to win the Europa League.
With a 2-0 first leg advantage over Dinamo Zagreb in the bag, the 2019 Champions League finalists should manage to complete the task in Croatia and move onto the quarter-finals of this season’s Europa League.
If so, there would be just five more fixtures for Tottenham left to navigate and if they can make it all the way to the Polish city of Gdansk and win this season’s edition of the Europa League, it would supercede their standing in the final Premier League table.
With Europa League success offering backdoor entry to its bigger competitive brother, it may be the only route into the competition for Tottenham who suffered a significant blow with an injury to Son Heung-min. The South Korean pulled a hamstring after just 19 minutes of last week’s derby day meeting, meaning a likely spell on the treatment table. Although his replacement scored before the interval, the thought of Erik Lamela playing each week is a rather scary thought for Tottenham supporters.
Of course, Lamela himself is suspended for Sunday’s trip to Aston Villa and with the Argentine also unavailable for selection, the prospect of leaving the West Midlands with all three points is not locked on either.
Which means, if there are more dropped points within this weekend’s league programme, it will only give further credence to the Europe or bust strategy and then the question will be, just when will the white flag be waved exactly?
Such a strategy is steeped with an incredible amount of risk and because there are no guarantees in football, if Tottenham were to place themselves on the beach domestically, they would simply have to deliver the Europa League. At the same time, an incredible amount of risk does also present itself with the same amount of reward and, if the strategy were to pay off, then the ends would certainly justify the means on May 26th.
Applying the brakes in the Premier League, would also allow the likes of Harry Kane and Gareth Bale the opportunity to be at maximum sharpness for any prolonged European campaigns and the benefits of this are rather obvious. With very few chances to rest and recuperate between now and what we all consider the business end of proceedings, competing in what may only amount to dead rubbers in the league, may be to the detriment of their European ambitions.
At the same time, Jose Mourinho will still believe that he has the personnel to secure automatic qualification to the Champions League through the league. Although it would not be anything in the way of silverware, like the Europa League could provide, securing a top four finish with Tottenham could be one of his biggest achievements.
You could earn up to £100 (or currency equivalent) in bonus funds by joining Colossus with our New Player Bonus. Click here to join the action.