Tottenham Hotspur: Can They Return to Champions League?
For this weekend's derby, there was more on the line than three points and a jump up the Premiership table. This was about dominance in north London.
A Spurs win showed that the kings of north London are firmly planted in Tottenham.
Although Arsenal has bested Tottenham in every league table since 1995, the situation looks ripe for Spurs to overtake their older brothers from the northern side of the sandbox. Arsenal is absolutely dismal, just two points above relegation. Tottenham is two points out of a possible Champions League spot, with playing one less game than everyone else due to their opener against Everton being postponed.
Tottenham has made a run in the Premiership, winning four straight league matches. But this next stretch of games will either cement Tottenham's place as a team ready to go back to the Champions League or a team that will have to claw its way into Europa competition once again.
Let's have a look at the next four matches for Spurs and see if they can double their four game win streak or not.
Oct. 16: Tottenham at Newcastle United
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Currently ranked fourth in the league, Newcastle United looks as though its relegation three years ago lit a spark under the team. They are one of only four undefeated teams in the Premiership. The other teams are Manchester United, Manchester City and Aston Villa.
Tim Krul is Newcastle's goalkeeper and he is making a serious run at being considered the best goalkeeper in the Premiership, conceding only four goals this season.
Newcastle also has some offensive weapons, like Demba Ba and Leon Best, but the road to victory for Tottenham goes through Krul.
I think this is a game that will end in a 1-1 draw, keeping Tottenham unbeaten but ending their four-game win streak in the Premiership.
Oct. 23: Tottenham vs. Blackburn
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As with Newcastle, the road to victory against Blackburn will come through the goalkeeper, but in a completely different way.
Newcastle's Tim Krul is one of the best in the world, conceding only four goals in the Premiership. He's a young, internationally recognized player that is flourishing despite the fact that he still hasn't hit the prime of his career.
Blackburn's Paul Robinson was a member of Tottenham Hotspur for five years, leaving for Rovers in 2008. By the time he faces his old team, he will have added one more year to his current age of 31 and probably a few goals to the 13 he's conceded this season. Robinson is past the prime of his career and isn't being helped by a woeful Blackburn defensive line.
For Tottenham, they must not play down to their competition and attack early and often against one of the favorites to be relegated.
Blackburn is a team that will only get worse as the season wears on. I think Tottenham will cruise to victory against Rovers, winning 3-1.
Oct. 30: Tottenham vs. Queens Park Rangers
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Queens Park Rangers is one of a trio of newly promoted teams that are doing exceptionally well in the Premiership.
QPR is the team that squeezes the most out of its defense, scoring a league-worst five goals and yet managing two wins and two draws. They've managed three clean sheets this season, and unlike the previous week's match against Newcastle, this will be a defensive struggle that will come down to the final minutes. Rangers defenders tend to move out of position a lot during the course of the match, so Tottenham can't build up an attack. They'll need quick strikes to put any in the back of the net.
The newly promoted Queens Park Rangers will put up a fight, but it will be a 1-0 victory for Tottenham as Brad Friedel earns his third clean sheet of the season.
Nov. 6: Tottenham at Fulham
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Until their 6-0 romping of Queens Park Rangers, Fulham had struggled to find the back of the net. Through six league matches, they had scored only four goals. Cottagers fans are hoping the goal scoring dam was broken once and for all against the newly promoted team.
The strength of Fulham has rarely been its been its offense though. Their highest scoring season this decade was 2007-08, when the team scored 55 goals and finished fifth in the table. It was one of only four seasons this decade when Fulham scored at least 50 goals.
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has been a rock for Fulham since 2008 when he came over from Middlesbrough. The Australian international has only conceded seven goals this season, earned three clean sheets and made 23 saves.
Clint Dempsey must also be stopped. The midfielder is the most prolific scorer in Fulham's 131 year history, contributing to four of the team's 10 goals this season. He has two goals, two assists and a team leading 11 shots on goal. Shut down Dempsey and you shut down Fulham's ability to attack.
I think this is a game that will end in a 2-2 draw for Tottenham. Dempsey and Bobby Zamora will link up to harass the Tottenham defense all day but Adebayor and Defoe will find the back of the net.
Eight points in four matches isn't too bad. What do you think?