Will Tottenham Bring the Champions League to White Hart Lane in 2010?

Andrew A. McNeillCorrespondent IMay 9, 2009

LONDON - MAY 02: Jermain Defoe of Tottenham Hotspur waits to come on with Manager Harry Redknapp and Joe Jordan (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on May 2, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

When is it too early for a season preview? How about when the current schedule isn't finished yet. But nonetheless, with Tottenham Hotspur out of any and all cup competitions and all but guaranteed to finish in the top half of the English Premier League table, it's time to look ahead to August and Spurs' potential for a top four finish in 2010.

It's well documented that Spurs were only able to take two points from their first eight league matches. Which makes you wonder where the Lilywhites would be this season if they had spent the early season playing the way they have under Harry Redknapp.

Only two of those eight matches were against clubs in the top half of the table, a draw at Chelsea and a loss at White Hart Lane to Aston Villa.

Even if Spurs were able to take half of the available points from those first eight matches, that would put them firmly in sixth in the league table, jockeying with Everton and Aston Villa for the two Europa League spots.

It's also encouraging to look at Spurs record against the top four this year. Spurs lost only one game against the top four so far this season, that being a 5-2 loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford last month. Spurs have taken 10 points from a possible 21 against the top four with one match against Liverpool remaining.

Early in the year it seemed as if Spurs couldn't play well against anyone but the top four, with the draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Tottenham's exciting comeback to steal a point from Arsenal at Emirates.

Some changes will need to be made to the lineup next season if Spurs hope to make a dent in the top four.

In the transfer market, Spurs will address the left side of the midfield. Several different players started in that position this season, including David Bentley, Jamie O'Hara, Luke Modric, Gareth Bale and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Modric fared better than anyone, but he is better as an attacking midfielder. Middlesbrough's left winger Stewart Downing was a transfer target of Spurs in January but his transfer request was denied by Boro. But with Middlesbrough currently in position to be relegated, he could be allowed to exit during the summer.

One problem that Harry Redknapp needs to solve for next season is the striker postion. Big money was spent in the January transfer window to bring back Jermaine Defoe from Portsmouth and Robbie Keane from Liverpool.

During their previous spells at Spurs, Defoe and Keane were unable to find the on-the-field chemistry that Keane achieved with Dimitar Berbatov.

The returns of both players were celebrated by the fans, so it's a long-shot for either to be sold during the summer, but the same can't be said about Darren Bent, who is almost guaranteed to leave, or Roman Pavlyuchenko.

As good as Keane and Defoe are, they are lacking in the height department, one area where practice won't help them. The 6'2" Pavlyuchenko provides them with some height in the box to attack corners and crosses in the air.

Spurs will probably retain Pavlyuchenko because he played well in his first season in England, despite some inconsistencies, and fatigue from playing in the Russian season prior to his move to Spurs. But the rumors of Pav's exit still persist.

After suffering through the worst start in the Premier League this season, Spurs were able to recover after manager Juande Ramos was fired and Harry Redknapp was brought in from Portsmouth as a replacement. Confidence was restored to the players at White Hart Lane and and good football returned.

Spurs have since creeped up the table and are just a player or two away from challenging the traditional top four next year for a Champions League spot.