When Tottenham Hotspur faces Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday every other team will have played for this round of fixtures, yet if Spurs win they will still go into the top four.
The postponements have made understanding Tottenham Hotspur’s place in the table difficult at times this season. However, if Spurs wins on Sunday, they will be up to fourth in the Premier League table.
Tottenham has only spent one week in the top four this season, after matchday three when Spurs were top of the table. However, since that 0-3 loss to Crystal Palace, the lily whites have been no higher than fifth place. All that can change and in a big way if Spurs can top Chelsea on Sunday.
Tottenham could be in sole possession of fourth
As I am writing this article Spurs sit sixth in the table and could drop to seventh, depending on Arsenal’s result versus Burnley in the afternoon. However, regardless of what Arsenal does, or anyone else, if Tottenham beats Chelsea they will be alone in fourth place. And while Spurs would be no worse than seventh with a loss, there is a huge difference between seventh and fourth.
Tottenham already has an inferior goal differential to their three closest competitors Manchester United, West Ham, and Arsenal, so it is imperative that Spurs find some space where they can.
A win on Sunday, no easy feat, would leave Tottenham one point ahead of Manchester United and at least one point ahead of Arsenal – again depending on the Gunner’s own results. Spurs would even have a two-point lead on West Ham.
What would make that marginal lead even more important is that Spurs have games in hand on all of those teams.
Games in hand are more valuable from fourth place
After the weekend Tottenham will have three games in hand over West Ham, two games over Manchester United, and one game over Arsenal. Those hypothetical points are much more valuable – and realistic – when stretching an existing lead, versus closing the gap.
The same is true of the top teams as well – as ridiculous as it may seem. If Spurs beat Chelsea, they will only be five points back of third-place Chelsea with four games in hand. That would give Tottenham a lot of chances to catch Chelsea and stake a more permanent claim to a Champions League position.
Alternatively, if Tottenham losses to Chelsea, they would be 11 points back of the Blues, albeit with four games in hand. That would mean Spurs would have to be perfect to catch Chelsea, which makes those hypothetical points not so sure. The bottom line is that Tottenham needs to win, to show they are a legitimate dog in the top-four race and position themselves to stretch a gap with games in hand, versus close it.