The international break will certainly have been welcomed by Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas.
|Food for thought: Villas-Boas had a lot to ponder during the international break|
Having seen his team suffer back-to-back Premier League defeats prior to the World Cup qualifiers, the 35-year-old Portuguese is likely to have spent the past two weeks devising a plan to prevent a second consecutive end-of-season collapse from the North Londoners.
Four wins from thirteen matches at the end of the 2011/12 campaign saw Spurs cling onto the fourth Champions League spot, but having earlier been touted as title contenders, they only had themselves to blame when the eventual European champions Chelsea took their place in this season’s competition.
Given that all the English representatives have failed to make it past the Champions League last-16 this time round, Spurs can at least be assured that a fourth-placed finish or better will ensure their status amongst Europe’s elite.
Nevertheless, they’re going to have to work hard for it. AVB’s men are a point behind third-placed Chelsea having played a game more while Arsenal and Everton are only four and six points behind them respectively with a game in hand.
The next four fixtures are likely to prove crucial in the outcome of their season. Key matches at home to Everton and away at Chelsea are sandwiched in between Saturday’s trip to Swansea and the visit of Manchester City to White Hart Lane on 21 April.
If they can come through that difficult spell with a respectable points tally, they will fancy their chances of completing the job against four teams who currently find themselves in the bottom half of the table; Wigan, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland.
The pressure is on AVB to match the immediate expectations of chairman Daniel Levy and use the financial gains of Champions League football to mould Spurs into a side capable of challenging for the Premier League title. Success in the Europa League is a possibility but you’d expect that the majority of Spurs fans would sacrifice the silverware for a place in next season’s Champions League. The experience of making it to the quarter-finals in the 2010/11 season provides enough justification for that in itself.
The quality of Spurs’ squad is befitting of Champions League football, however, the future of their star man Gareth Bale could hinge on whether they secure it or not. Real Madrid and Barcelona have been heavily linked with the Welsh wizard and the lure of the two Spanish giants will be even greater if his current club are unable to offer the stage on which his talent deserves to be displayed.
The disappointment of missing out on the Champions League last season sparked the departures of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart and the consequent arrivals of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey as replacements for them. Two world-class midfielders out. Three very good midfielders in.
Spurs cannot afford to make a habit out of this as they will gradually become a weaker outfit. The quicker they realise their potential as a club, the better.