Feature

Spurs' mission fuelled by unfulfilled dreams

Everyone, even the embittered cynics like yours truly, couldn’t help but ride the Leicester City wagon all the way home last season. We’ll probably never see such a thing again - and, quite wonderfully, we all knew it.

Lamela

Tottenham Hotpsur midfielder Erik Lamela in against against Bournemouth Source: Getty Images

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Spare a thought for Tottenham Hotspur fans, themselves something of an serious long-shot at title success going into last season.

Had they won it in any other campaign, it would have been an unthinkable success. Yet somehow they would be cast in a different light - not villains per se, but the obstacle to the miracle. 

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And given how many Spurs fans there seems to be in Australia (everywhere - certainly in the four most-supported Premier League teams), it was bemusing to see their conflicted faces as last season heated up: pleased for Leicester but dying to see their men get over the line. 



Truly, they were the only ones who couldn’t embrace the story without adding the dreaded "Yes, but...". Unfortunately, sporting miracles require a vanquished foe. They unwittingly stepped into the fray. 

But as the Spurs and Foxes meet for the first time since last season’s title race (LIVE and FREE on SBS from 12:20am Sunday) they do so on vastly different terms. 

Forgive the racing parlance - it is Derby Day after all - but it’s reasonable to say that Tottenham have jumped well from the gate and have already taken a comfortable position on the rail, with cover. 

Leicester? Having done a Prince of Penzance this time last year - they are battling in midfield after missing the start but by a small, but not insignificant amount. 

On those strictest of terms, Tottenham represent an obvious choice to emerge triumphant. 

The question hangs somewhat on Leicester, who will soon face the prospect of hanging on to a top ten spot and challenging for the minor European placings, or sucked, unexpectedly and unceremoniously, into a bottom half scrap.
For context, they’re eight points out of a UEFA Europa League spot and four points above 18th placed Hull City. So it’s not exactly been a dream run. 

Where Leicester have performed, however, is in the UEFA Champions League.

Given a relatively comfortable draw, the Foxes have barely raised a sweat in seeing off all three of Club Brugge, Porto and FC Copenhagen.

The perfect score of nine points virtually assures their progress, in first place, to the knockout stages. 

I was present at their victory over Copenhagen in Leicester last week and although Andreas Cornelius (yes, that Cardiff City flop) gave the hosts some worrying moments, they generally motored around in second gear. 

It’s clearly on the domestic front that’s giving them the most headaches, and Claudio Ranieri hasn’t quite figured out how to stop the team leaking goals.

Last week’s superb 3-1 win over Crystal Palace, at least, seems to have temporarily halted any further negativity. 

But back to Spurs. People were talking about them endlessly after the win over Manchester City and it’s not hard to see why. They ruthlessly outworked the championship favourites. 



Since then? Two draws in the Premier League, a draw in the Champions League and defeat to Liverpool in the League Cup. Ouch. 

However, Mauricio Pochettino is among the very best managers in the business and will know that the visit of Leicester to White Hart Lane is an opportunity on two fronts. 

First, it won’t ease the pain of last season, but a symbolic blow needs to be struck, both for the belief of the players and the fans.

Secondly, three points are absolutely necessary to keep pace with the front-runners - one point separates the top five teams and the room for error has vanished. 

The worry for Spurs is that without Harry Kane, still missing with an ankle injury, the onus again falls on Vincent Janssen, who is having trouble adapting to England. His time will come but Wes Morgan and Robert Huth will be out to batter him.

But there’s plenty of other attacking weapons - Son Heung Min, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli - who can add a prickly epilogue to English football’s miracle story.

Spurs fans are counting on it.


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4 min read
Published 28 October 2016 at 12:50pm
By Sebastian Hassett