Tottenham will have hoped for a relatively straightforward Christmas period, but their fixture list looks increasingly tricky in the wake of recent results in the Premier League.
At the start of the season, what looked like a fortnight of easy pickings for Spurs has quickly transformed into a number of potential banana skins.
The north Londoners start with Norwich City at home on Boxing Day, and should ordinarily be on course for three points. However, they will face a buoyant Canaries side still celebrating last week’s 2-1 win over Manchester United.
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A short trip to Vicarage Road to face Watford follows just two days later. Like Norwich, the Hornets have taken some impressive scalps since coming up from the Championship, most recently stunning Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool 3-0.
In fact, in a testament to the toughness of this year’s league, things do not get much easier for Mauricio Pochettino’s men in January. Again, they surely would have been happy with a run of Everton, Leicester, Sunderland and Crystal Palace when the fixture list was drawn up, but in reality they could be looking at a return of just six to eight points in January.
Everton at Goodison Park is always an unpredictable game for the Lilywhites, and Sam Allardyce has provoked something of a resurgence at struggling Sunderland. Those two matches will sandwich a double-header against Leicester, one in the league and one in the FA Cup. Leicester knocked Spurs out of the competition last season, and while Pochettino will be relishing the chance of revenge, he is far from guaranteed it judging by the league leaders’ current form.
Spurs must raise their game
In order to come through the New Year unscathed, Tottenham will need to avoid complacency. That element of their mentality has perhaps been a factor in their inability to kill games off this season; in several of their draws, they have lacked killer instinct and have sat back too much in the second half.
Having already beaten Manchester City and drawn with Leicester, Arsenal and Liverpool, they will need to raise their game to that kind of level even in what would appear on paper as easier games.
The difficulty will come in doing that week in, week out. If they do have a successful Christmas and New Year, they should find themselves in pole position for the Champions League places going into the business end of the season.
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