16 April 2013

Should we "let" Everton win?

Hear me out. I'm not loony, nor did I get hit over the head lately. I'm sporting a bit of a welt about my left eye, but I'm sure it has no bearing on my current thought processes. In all seriousness, though, all I'm really saying is that I'd love to see Everton join us in the top four. Just picture it: we could have a top four of Man U, Man City, us, and Everton, with both Spurs and Chelsea dropping out entirely. With Spurs barely holding together with proverbial duct tape and baling wire, and with Chelsea straggling through the Europa League, it's not unfeasible. Only four points separate 3rd and 6th at this point, and with Chelsea and Spurs set to meet atsome point before the end of the year, one or both of them is bound to drop points there. I'm not saying we should just roll over and let Everton have its way with us. Maybe I'm just bracing myself for a tough match by seeking a silver lining. I know we can't afford to drop points, and certainly not at home against a key rival for the top four, but it's interesting to ponder.

Considering Spurs, they're still without Bale, Lennon, Defoe, and Gallas out until Sunday, meaning that they may host Man City without one or more of them, making a difficult match that much harder. Even if Lennon or Bale is fit to return, their injuries are likely to inhibit their speed, and for Lennon, that's about 90% of what he brings. I love the chance it's given Dempsey, but he is not Bale, and Adebayor's form has fallen so far, you'd need a diving bell to find it. Zing. His missed PK against Basel was so bad, John Terry felt bad for him. Boom. A two-fer. Anyway, they may be out of the Europa League, but their schedule still does them few favors, and they'll have to twiddle their thumbs until Chelsea can see fit to host them. Until then, they'll have to fret about their poor run, having taken only four points in their last four matches and getting dumped by FC Basel. On the other hand, all they have to play for is a top-four finish, and this may motivate them.

As to Chelsea, they may be in better shape injury-wise than Spurs, but they'll have to slog through the Europa and find room for quite a few rescheduled Prem matches. Cole and Cahill are still out, leaving their defense paper-thin if not more charismatic, but they could return for their trip to Craven Cottage tomorrow. That's still a tricky match as Fulham is tricky at home, with a +6 goal-differential at home and a measly -10 on the road. They'll also have two tough away-games, at Liverpool and at Man U (where, if I have anything to say about it, Man U will still be looking to sew up the Prem). Where they'll squeeze in the visit from Spurs is still anyone's guess, but it's sure to complicate matters for both clubs.

Of course, our own hold on a top-four finish is tenuous, exaggerated briefly by Chelsea's game in hand. It's important that we continue our run. We have 12 eminently winnable points on our schedule (at Newcastle, Wigan, at QPR, and Fulham) and six more that might go either way (Everton and Man U). Chelsea and Spurs can only say the same about nine points on their schedules, but we'll see. A setback against Everton wouldn't be fatal. If I could trade a draw against Everton for a Chelsea or Spurs loss against one of their relegation-threatened opponents, I just might take it. Should Everton win, they create a three-way logjam at 4th, tied at 58 with Spurs and Chelsea (game in hand) while we remain a point ahead. We'd still control our top four destiny while making things a bit tighter for Spurs, if not Chelsea as well.

Having said all that, it's idle speculation. I'd love three points and to let these other clubs squabble amongst themselves. Game-time in three hours, twenty minutes...