Nothing is won in February but from recent experience Tottenham know that the outcome of the matches in early spring will have a major influence on the outcome of the season. Tottenham are facing an extremely challenging two months so by the time they travel to Wigan at the end of April, they will know whether their aspirations of a Champions League place are still a realistic option or have fallen by the wayside once again to become merely a pipe-dream.
Seven months of the 2012-13 season have passed, 26 Premier League matches played and Tottenham are sitting in fourth place and have qualified for the last-16 of the Europa League. At this moment in time, it’s looking good for Spurs but the next two months will determine whether the first season under Andre Villas-Boas is a success or a failure.
Starting against West Ham United at Upton Park on Monday evening Tottenham will play 8 matches in the League plus at least two Europa League games. If they defeat Inter Milan over two legs they will also have to accommodate another two matches in early April. The League fixtures include 4 London derbies, and all but three of the League games are against teams with aspirations of at least a top-4 finish. The majority of the players will also be involved in two World Cup qualifying matches in late March, leaving little opportunity for rest and recovery in a hectic nine week period.
The match against West Ham is followed by the north London derby at White Hart Lane. Tottenham then visit Liverpool but have to play their Europa League games against Inter around this match with Spurs playing the first leg at home. After the away leg in Milan, Spurs have another London derby at home to Fulham. The international matches take up the next fortnight before Tottenham travel to Wales for their game against Swansea at the end of March.
April has only four League matches – Everton at home, Chelsea away, Manchester City at White Hart Lane and Wigan away. Further Europa League progress and Spurs would be required to play two games either side of the Everton match. The date of the Chelsea match could alter if the Stamford Bridge club reach the FA Cup semi-finals which are due to be played that weekend.
The depth of Tottenham’s squad is of major concern for such a high profile run of fixtures. Andre Villas-Boas has few alternatives available to him in midfield or striker so any additional injuries will make this sequence of matches a very difficult prospect. Younes Kaboul is thought to be ready to return and Jermain Defoe should be available soon but with so many players out on loan, Villas-Boas is having to work with a limited squad.
Every match in that run is vital with the result having a bearing on both clubs’ top-4 aspirations. There are many opportunities to inflict damage on a rival’s chances of a Champions League finish but equally a run of poor results will seriously damage Tottenham’s hopes. On the weekend that Spurs travel to Anfield, Everton make the opposite journey to London, to the Emirates, so the result in both matches could see a major change for all four clubs.
It’s set to be a roller-coaster of a climax to the season. How will it turn out? Tottenham will have a better idea come the end of April.