The repercussions of yet another shameful European night for Tottenham Hotspur following one more loss to a relatively unknown team from a farmers league will go on for some time. Possibly the most painful blow, however, is the new and improved route to the Conference League knockout rounds, which will include two extra matches now, if Spurs are to make it at all.
Two steps in three stages for Tottenham to advance in Europa Conference League
Had Tottenham drawn against NS Mura, Spurs would still have held an outside shot of winning the group. Instead, having lost 2-1, by virtue of their tie against Vitesse, Rennes clinched first place in Group G.
Rennes having already advanced as the group winner may be good for Spurs in that Rennes could play a weakened team in the last match but that may or may not help Tottenham, so we should not count on it.
Step one for Spurs is beating out Vitesse. Tottenham is currently second in the group and is ahead by a superior goal difference. Given Vitesse and Tottenham have one win each and have each scored three times in their two head-to-head matches, that goal difference is the next applicable tie-breaker for the two teams.
Tottenham must maintain a goal difference advantage to advance if both teams end up even on points.
If Vitesse wins by 2 goals more than Tottenham and they are tied in the goal difference, Spurs are in trouble. The next tiebreaker after goal difference is goals scored in all group matches. If Vitesse scores two more against Mura than Spurs do against Rennes, it is game over for Tottenham.
At that point, Spurs and Vitesse would both have the same number of goals scored, moving the tiebreaker to point G – ironically Spurs group letter – where the team with the higher number of away goals scored in all group matches advances. Vitesse has scored seven away goals compared to three for Tottenham, so if Vitesse beat Mura by two more goals then Spurs beat Rennes Tottenham will finish a disgraceful third in their group.
Step one is clear, beat Rennes and do so soundly so the goal difference tiebreaker stays in Spurs’ favor.
Step two to advance is a two-step dance for Spurs
Assuming – and that is obviously a big assumption at this point – Tottenham beats Rennes and beats out Vitesse for second place in the group, they will have earned a two-match play-off to get to the Round of 16 knockout phase.
The third-placed teams from the Europa League proper groups will all be put into a pot and drawn against the eight second-placed teams from the Conference league groups. The same procedure is also occurring in the Europa League with the third-placed Champions League teams so we should not feel too special.
What this means is if Tottenham is fortunate enough to advance we will all be anxiously awaiting the 13 December draw for the February 17 and 24 two-legged knockout round playoff games. At least we know as the second-placed team from the group, Spurs would have the second match at home against whomever they face from the draw.
Conceivably Tottenham would have had some January turnover and may be better prepared for the extra matches. Then again if the same team spirit and endeavor that was produced against Mura shows up against Rennes, those two matches are not anything the club will have to worry about. We know the loss to Mura will hurt for some time, for just how long and how much we are going to find out.