Leicester, Brexit, Trump, Spurs? Can Tottenham join the list of victorious underdogs?
Even before Father Christmas started dropping down our chimneys all those months ago, it looked like Chelsea had this season’s Premier League title in the bag as they continuously stretched their lead at the top of the table.
However, there may well have been a defining twist in a title race that appeared to be over at the weekend as relegation-threatened Crystal Palace snatched a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge to inflict Chelsea’s first home defeat since 16th September.
This loss against Palace means that the current table-toppers are now only seven points clear at the summit of the Premier League with 27 points still to play for (quite the drop from the ten point cushion they had not so long ago) and Tottenham, sitting in 2nd and showing no signs of slowing down themselves (four straight league wins), will be looking to take advantage of any slip-up – something Pochettino warned Chelsea of back at the beginning at March.
Perhaps what is more worrying for Chelsea is that their next match is at home to Manchester City, a team who’ve been much better on their travels than at home. The Citizens have the second-best away record in the division (Chelsea have the best) with 31 points taken from just 15 matches and are capable of blowing any opposition out the water on their day. Having said that, we all know how weak City can be at the back and you could say that their defensive performance on Wednesday night won’t match that of Crystal Palace’s on Saturday. City will certainly be looking to outscore Chelsea at Stamford Bridge rather than contain them – if Palace can do it, then City certainly can.
If Conte’s Chelsea side come out on top on Wednesday, it restarts their momentum for the final eight games. But that is a very big if.
With most of the attention being on Chelsea so far this season, and some even on the likes of the aforementioned Manchester City as well as under-performing Manchester United down in 5th, Tottenham have been going very much under the radar. The usual suspects are very much the destroyers and aircraft carriers in the ocean whilst Spurs are the little U-Boat looking to take them down without even being spotted.
Tottenham also play on Wednesday night but face a much simpler test in the form of struggling Swansea City. This means that, if Chelsea drop points, Spurs are right back in the Premier League title race. If Chelsea were to lose against City, something that’s not all that unthinkable, and Spurs were to win, the gap will be down to just four points.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were of course Leicester City’s closest challengers for the majority of last season but, in typical Spurs fashion, ended up falling apart and finishing 3rd behind bitter rivals Arsenal. From a Tottenham point of view, you’d hope that they’ve learnt their lessons from last season and, given the defensive strength and resilience shown so far this campaign, there’s every chance that they have.
Wednesday’s fixture against Swansea really is one of huge significance; win and the title race is definitely still on, lose and it’s probably all over. If they do fail to claim three points in Wales, in reality, 2nd place will be the best the north London side can hope for, although that would still be a highly respectable finish – a finish that would be their highest ever in the Premier League era.
At the time of writing, bookmakers are offering 9/1 on Tottenham lifting the title (quite a contrast to the 1/8 offered on Chelsea) which suggests they think it’s all over. However, this could come back to haunt them at the end of the campaign given the circumstances. If the points gap is cut down to four or even five after the final whistle on Wednesday (which isn’t out of the question) then those odds will no doubt shorten. If you’re expecting both Spurs to keep upping the ante and Chelsea to falter, you might want to have a few quid on Tottenham snatching the title away from Chelsea late in the day, but you better do it sooner rather than later.
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