With three matches in seven days, Tottenham face a somewhat tricky run coming off the international break — one that might define the rest of their season.
No, there are no proper derbies in that run, nor will Tottenham be taking on any of their rivals in the Premier League’s top six.
What that run does feature, however, are three opportunities for Spurs to trip up.
Consider, for one, that Saturday’s match against Burnley and the midweek trip to Swansea are their first away fixtures in the league since they traveled — and lost — to Liverpool on February 11th.
At home, where their record is virtually without blemish, Tottenham thrive. They beat Everton, Swansea and Southampton by a combined score of 9-3 in their last three matches.
Even that represents something of a stumble for Mauricio Pochettino’s side however. Against both Everton and Southampton, Spurs allowed second half goals that came close to blowing their leads. Points could very easily have been dropped with just one or two more wrong moves.
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Now they must travel to three teams that are still fighting to stay up — teams that would gladly take a single point against a team like Tottenham.
End-of-season matches against teams in or on the periphery of the relegation battle are never pretty for bigger sides. Potential ruin tends to bring the best out of even the most pedestrian looking teams. Look no further than Sunderland’s amazing escape acts over the past few seasons.
Tottenham’s position in second also remains very tenuous. While reaching Chelsea is perhaps out of the question, there are still four sides who would love for Spurs to drop any points whatsoever. Pochettino will be praying for wins if only to keep pace with the Manchester clubs and Arsenal.
What’s more, Pochettino will take his team to Burnley and Swansea sides who, like Spurs, play their best football at home.
All nine of Burnley’s Premier League wins have come at Turf Moor. Sean Dyche prefers a compact but lightning quick team for occasions like this, one that will attempt to exploit any overconfidence Spurs bring with them on Saturday.
Swansea’s record at Liberty Stadium is a bit more spotty, but they have won their last three matches there. With Paul Clement leading a revitalization effort that features at its core former Spurs names like Kyle Naughton, Tom Carroll and Gylfi Sigurdsson, Pochettino has every reason to be cautious.
A return trip home to White Hart Lane for Watford’s visit might offer some respite, but the Hornets too will want whatever points they can get out of the encounter.
It is entirely possible that Tottenham look back on this week of matches as one of the most pivotal stretches of the season. Wins in these matches could more or less secure Tottenham’s place in the Champions League this season. Losses or draws, meanwhile, might throw the whole season into doubt.