Tottenham's Champions League aspirations were dealt a hammer blow last Sunday by Robert Snodgrass' second-half strike. Nevertheless, despite now trailing Liverpool by six points, Tim Sherwood's men are still in the hunt for fourth.
It's certainly a big ask, yet if there's one word that encapsulates the prevailing theme in this Premier League season it would be "unpredictability." From Manchester United's dramatic demise to Crystal Palace's spirited resurgence under Tony Pulis, England's top tier has been anything but preordained.
Cast an eye over the remaining fixtures, and March sticks out as the pivotal month.
|Southampton (A)||Cardiff City (H)|
|Manchester United (A)||Chelsea (A)|
|Cardiff City (A)||Arsenal (H)|
|Sunderland (H)||Southampton (H)|
|Tottenham (H)||Liverpool (A)|
At worst, Tottenham will look to arrive at Anfield with no more than a six-point deficit. That means going stride for stride with Liverpool in the preceding weeks and picking up a minimum of nine points from those four games—in light of Jose Mourinho's redoubtable home record, it's hard to envisage Tottenham snatching a result at Chelsea.
Liverpool's schedule in March appears easier, but it still presents a few potential banana skins in the form of visits to St Mary's and Old Trafford. However, if recent results are anything to go by, you wouldn't bet against them amassing the full 12 points.
Come the month's end—when both sides lock horns in the proverbial six-pointer—the landscape should be a lot clearer.
Liverpool will approach that game as deserved favourites, drawing inspiration from two comprehensive maulings against the North London rivals.
Some might even suggest the result is a foregone conclusion, but they'd be wise to consider that Tottenham players will be itching to redress the defeat at White Hart Lane and restore some personal and collective pride. Let's also remember that, notwithstanding last week's result, Tottenham's away record is still the best in the league.
|West Ham (A)||Sunderland (H)|
|Manchester City (H)||West Bromwich Albion (A)|
|Norwich (A)||Fulham (H)|
|Chelsea (H)||Stoke (A)|
|Crystal Palace (A)||West Ham (A)|
|Newcastle (H)||Aston Villa (H)|
Looking beyond March, Tottenham's run-in, at least on paper, should offer up the least resistance, with five of their six games against bottom-half outfits. On the other hand, Liverpool play host to Manchester City and Chelsea in the concluding weeks—two sides likely to be wrestling for the title.
In truth, considering the travails that have befallen Tottenham's season—the departure of their greatest-ever Premier League player in Gareth Bale; the farcical sacking of Andre Villas-Boas; the paucity of goals before Sherwood's introduction and the catalog of heavy defeats—finishing fourth would be nothing short of miraculous.
Perhaps this year, without the weight of expectation that comes with being the front-runner, Tottenham can finish with a flourish and claim that coveted Champions League berth in style. Or they could just, you know, lose to Cardiff on Sunday and chalk it off as yet another transitional season.
Either way, March is shaping up to be a decisive month for both teams. How do you think it will pan out?