Tottenham’s Victory (Just About) Keeps The Title Race Alive
Can Tottenham win the League? It still looks like something of a Sisyphean task for the North London club. Indeed, Chelsea’s improbable defeat to Crystal Palace yesterday might do nothing more than reanimate the beast; a jab at a dark corner of Antonio Conte’s obsessive psyche which’ll inspire an even more ruthless approach to the remaining fixtures.
With eight games to go, nothing stonewalls complacency like being outdone by a grinning Sam Allardyce. You could almost see the smug clouds orbiting the former England coach.
Meanwhile, the look in Gary Cahill’s eye during the post-match interview suggested that Conte had let the players know: that won’t be happening again on my watch. Time to hunker down and sail this baby home.
‘We’re disappointed but it’s a time to stay calm, re-focus and go again,’ said Cahill, straight from the well-worn Things Footballers Say After Defeat handbook. One imagines Conte was anything but calm in the dressing room after the game.
At the very least, results this weekend have asked a question where before there wasn’t one. Chelsea remain strong favourites, and where the safe bet ought to be placed, but the odds don’t look quite so clear cut according to the football bookmakers.
For Tottenham, their trip to Turf Moor on Saturday was comfortably their toughest remaining away fixture. Burnley’s form doesn’t make a great deal of sense on the face of it; 29 of their 32 points this season have been secured on home soil, including some showpiece victories against Everton and Liverpool. A draw against Chelsea in February was a particularly enjoyable result for Sean Dyche, too. They’re League’s resident agoraphobics.
The fact that Pochettino could engineer a victory, then, with yet another clean sheet (Spurs’ 13th of the season), shows a level of mental grit that they haven’t always been associated with.
And, at Sampford Bridge, Chelsea lost for only the second time since late-September. Now the gap has been shaved to seven points, with Conte’s men facing both Manchester clubs in the next fortnight. Could it happen? There’s the very faintest whiff of title race, which will give pundit something to talk about if nothing else. Perhaps it’s not over just yet.