Any Champions League celebrations next season may depend on celebrations over the Premier League cellar dwellers (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Fresh off of a glorious night at White Hart Lane that saw them through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League and a starry draw that matched them up with Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur have been rightly reveling in their European exploits. Decades and decades of work to get back to the top European tournament has been worth the wait as Spurs have taken the continent by storm with some fantastic play and eye-popping individual performances by Gareth Bale.
Despite their Champions League brilliance this season, Tottenham have every intention of returning next season, but unless they can come away winners on May 28 at Wembley, Spurs will have to book their European place next season by finishing top four in the English Premier League. That top four place is something they don't currently have.
With 10 matches remaining in their league campaign, Tottenham sit in fifth place, three points behind fourth-place Chelsea and five points behind third-place Manchester City, although they do have a match in hand over the Citizens. Making things all the more difficult on the team is that their remaining matches against Chelsea and City are both away from White Hart Lane. Add in matches against Arsenal and Liverpool still remaining on the fixture list and it is easy to see which matches will be circled as those most key to Spurs returning to the Champions League, but the next three matches are going to massively important to any top four run as well.
In the next three league matches, Tottenham will play West Ham United, Wigan Athletic and Stoke City. All three sides are in the bottom half of the table with the Hammers and Latics making up two of the three currently in the drop zone. Not only are the next three matches against teams a long ways off from Spurs in the table, but two of those three are also at home and the first two come without a midweek match preceding them. All in all, the next three matches should make for nine points.
Not only should the next three matches make for nine points, they must make for nine points. A day after Spurs take on West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester City will square off, meaning dropped points for at least one and maybe both. When Spurs are wrapping up their three important matches, City will be at Anfield taking on a rejuvenated Liverpool side. The next three weekends of league play don't just make for an opportunity for Tottenham to grab points, but they make for assured dropped points from their rivals.
Spurs fans look longingly back on last season's dream run to the top four and wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and a Champions League clinching win over Manchester City with nothing but a giddy smile on their faces. It is to be expected for three wins so key to the team's incredible accomplishment and changing the club's reputation of failing when on the verge of unprecedented success. What is often forgotten though is the run into those final matches of the season.
Last March, Spurs went undefeated with three of those wins coming in Premier League play. The final two league matches in February also netted Tottenham three points. None of those five matches came against any of the league's top clubs and nobody would call any of those matches famous wins, but those 15 points catapulted Spurs into a position to win a Champions League place.
Tottenham don't have the ability to go back and make better of their league matches at the end of February or their one league match thus far in March and reclaim some lost points, but they do have the opportunity to grab the next nine key points.
If Tottenham can grab their next nine points they will be within striking distance of the top four with matches against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City as part of a Champions League chasing close, just like last season. The key to it all though is the next three matches. No wins in any of the next three matches will go down in Tottenham lore, but dropped points there might leave any tremendous wins over the big clubs down the stretch out of Tottenham lore as well with the top four already out of striking distance.