03 May 2013

Spurs-Southampton: Reasons for hope

At first glance, Southampton's trip to White Hart Lane looks to be a joyride for Spurs. After all, they come in as the 5th place team in the Prem while Southampton languishes in 13th, still at risk for relegation because Wigan could still mathematically overtake them. Southampton sports a -10 goal-differential on the year; Spurs, +17. Southampton is positively woeful on the road, having taken only 15 of of 51 points, and Spurs have been strong at home, keeping 32 of 51. So far, it's looking bad for the Saints as they visit White Hart Lane to reconnect with their dearly departed Gareth Bale, set to make his  200th appearance for Spurs, bathed in glory with so many individual accolades this year I've quite lost count.

And yet. And yet. Southampton comes in as the 6th-hottest team in the league, having kept 11 of its last 18 points, beating Liverpool and Chelsea in the process, while Spurs have staggered and stumbled, dropping 10 out of its last 18 points. I'm not going so far as to say that anything could happen, but stranger things have happened, like Chelsea losing to Southampton, for example. By the time we arrive at Loftus Road on Saturday, we'll know how Spurs have done, not that we should need to adjust our intensity either way. Whether Spurs win, lose, or draw, our only acceptable outcome is to win. I've called for an orgy of goals, believing we need to resurrect a little of the momentum that had impelled into 3rd momentarily, especially after two consecutive draws.

The more that the pressure builds, the more that nervous Spurs minds will turn to last year as they recall that, as they tried to keep up with our surge, they dropped points to teams like Sunderland (13th last year),  Norwich (12th), QPR (17th), and Aston Villa (16th). For all the talk of our fragility or inconsistency, it's Spurs who can't handle the pressure. In recent weeks, they've dropped points to Wigan (18th) and Fulham (11th), not quite as sloppy as last year but still too careless. In that sense, it's a bit of a shame that we don't play first on Saturday. If we could put a proper pasting on QPR, this would only amp up the anxiety at White Hart, making various Spurs players twitchy and tight. However, we'll have to settle for re-ratcheting the pressure to a fever-pitch for them. It's after this, after all, that they have to make the trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Wednesday for what is sure to be brutal.  We'll know who to root for in that match by late Sunday as Chelsea has to travel to Old Stafford.

In an ideal world, of course, we win while Spurs and Chelsea lose. This puts us at 67 points, 3rd place with two to play, while Chelsea stays at 65, 4th place with three to play, and Spurs remain at 5th with 62 points with three to play. From there, would we root for Chelsea to defeat Spurs, leaving Spurs at 62 with only two matches to play?  To seize 4th place, we'd then only need one point from our two remaining matches against Wigan and Newcastle. I'm not enough of a mathematician to dissect the various permutations of what might and could happen, so let's leave it at that for now. Saints, ruin Bale's 200th. Rain on his parade. QPR, expect us to be very rude to you when we arrive.

We'll see where things stand on Saturday night.