As the 2019-20 season threatens to end in disappointment, the week from March 4 to March 10 is going to be crucial to how the campaign will ultimately be regarded and unfortunately the early signs are not good, after another disappointing cup exit on Wednesday night.
Bookmakers and football betting apps are taking bets on the rest of the season with Spurs still in the race for Champions League qualification but Jose Mourinho’s side have not maintained any form of consistency and the events of the last few days have confirmed that issue.
Four wins in a row, including an impressive Premier League victory over Manchester City suggested that Spurs might have turned the corner, as they closed in on Chelsea in the top flight and continued their push in both the Champions League and the FA Cup. But their campaigns in all three competitions have been hit by a string of poor performances.
A surprise 1-0 home defeat to RB Leipzig in the Champions League, leaving them with work to do in the second leg was followed by consecutive defeats against top-four rivals. First came a 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge, and that was followed by last week’s disheartening 3-2 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers. That result saw Wolves leapfrog Mourinho’s men, who are now down to seventh in the table, five points off fourth place.
So, an FA Cup tie against struggling Norwich offered the chance for Spurs to recover some momentum and reach a major quarter-final. Mourinho picked a strong line-up, including those who he felt would compete against Norwich but Spurs once again were unable to hold on to the lead, given to them on this occasion by Jan Verthongen. For large periods in the game, they were on the back foot against a side that is six points short of safety at the foot of the Premier League.
To lose on penalties is arguably unlucky, but Spurs fans would argue that the game should have been won long before, yet they never looked like getting the better of their limited opponents. Mourinho talked about fatigue after the game and although it certainly seems that the team are lacking spark at the moment – and the extra half hour on Wednesday night won’t have helped – that is still alarming for Spurs fans to hear, with two crucial games coming up in the next five days.
First up, on Saturday, it’s a trip to the north-west to take on Burnley at Turf Moor. This is usually one of the Premier League’s more demanding fixtures and the Clarets are not the kind of team you want to take on if your players are struggling with fatigue and confidence. Somehow Spurs have to pick themselves up for what is bound to be a physical encounter. Burnley are two places further back in the Premier League, but only trail by two points, so defeat to Sean Dyche’s in-form side could deal a fatal blow to Tottenham’s top-four hopes.
Three days later, Spurs face an even tougher challenge. They will head to Leipzig to take on their Champions League last-16 opponents with a one-goal deficit to overcome. Facing opponents who have only lost twice since the end of October suggests that they are up against it, but a victory in eastern Germany would put a positive spin on what is shaping up to be their toughest week of the 2019-20 season so far.