Sunday’s game at White Hart Lane against Manchester City could define Tottenham’s entire season.
Win, and a place in the top four looks more than achievable. The feel good factor will return and the belief that Spurs have finally overcome their end of season slump will spread throughout the club. Lose, and it will be a case of de-ja-vu all over again.
Arsenal could be five points clear of their North London rivals by the time Andre Villas-Boas goes up against Roberto Mancini. The Gunners travel to Fulham but no matter what the result at Craven Cottage, Spurs need a win. They also need their talisman back fully fit.
Gareth Bale has carried the side for the majority of 2013. His goals sealed wins at West Brom, West Ham, Swansea amongst others, and Spurs no doubt missed him in the 2-2 draws against Everton and Basel.
Bale picked up a nasty looking injury in the first leg against the Swiss side, but Villas-Boas was confident of a quick return.
"Gareth has rolled over his ankle and we still need to get assessment that we can only have on Friday," the manager said to reporters after that game.
"But it shouldn't be as bad as it looks in the images. He has torn that ligament before and there's nothing to tear now. There is lots of swelling and the pain is obviously very, very big but we hope to assess him tomorrow.
"There is a big possibility he is going to be able to make it for the Man City game and he will only miss the next two games.”
However, questions remain over his participation on Sunday and if the Welshman is not fully fit the question has to be asked: is it worth the risk? A player of Bale’s quality at 70% fitness is better than a lot of players at 100% fitness.
However, with City typically packing the central areas and playing the goliath that is Yaya Toure in the area Bale would look to operate, it is by no means a given that he would have a positive effect on the game.
There is, naturally, the risk of the player causing further damage to the injury, and as much as Spurs need him on Sunday they need the ex-Southampton star in the five games after Sunday too!
One option might be to put Bale on the bench, much like Barcelona did with their own star man, Lionel Messi. Needing a goal, Messi was brought off the bench and gave his side a lift without really playing at his normal level.
Bale could do similar, and if Spurs need a goal what better way to lift the crowd than to have Bale appear. He might also distract City, freeing up his team-mates to strike. Plus, the City team will have tired somewhat, and Bale’s lack of fitness would not be shown up as much.
It is a tough call for Villas-Boas but there are other issues that need addressing too – Tottenham could really do with Aaron Lennon making a return on the right wing.
A win on Sunday would be massive but that high could be tempered by news of Bale being ruled out for the remainder of the season. How confidant if AVB that Spurs can win without Bale?
And does he think Tottenham’s top four rivals will drop any more points? This is a great chance for the manager to earn his salary.
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