A very different 27 games: Can AVB's Tottenham Hotspur finish above Chelsea?


Following another screamer from Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur went above Chelsea in the league for the first time this season, but it will be an incredibly tricky task to keep them there.

Every so often football throws up a set of events that combine almost improbably perfectly, and Tottenham Hotspur's late win over West Ham on Wednesday night ticked a lot of boxes in this regard.

Sacked after 27 league matches last season, Andre Villas-Boas left Chelsea under a cloud with suggestions that his achievements at Porto were simply the result of an excellent team in a poor league. Daniel Levy took a chance by appointing him at Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, and having made plenty of enemies in the English press in his spell at Chelsea, the Portuguese manager faced an uphill struggle from the start at his new club.

However the final minutes ticked away in his 27th league game in charge of Spurs, Gareth Bale produced an extraordinary goal to grab three points at West Ham, and lift his side above Chelsea in the Premier League. In amongst the rampant celebrations, what was most telling for Tottenham fans was the way that Bale sprinted straight towards his manager to celebrate the winner, as clear an indication as you could find that the relationship between the manager and his players is very different to at Stamford Bridge.

Moving forward, once the euphoria settles at White Hart Lane it will be clear that Spurs still have it all to do if they are to claim a Champions League place, let alone finish above Chelsea. The weekend's match with Arsenal is the first of an ominous group of fixtures not dissimilar to those that scuppered their season last year. At the same time, Chelsea face a relatively easy run of games in which they could pull clear of Spurs and Arsenal to secure third place.

But Villas-Boas can be rightly proud of the fact that this is at least now in Spurs' hands. Were they to maintain their form through this spell, third place would be theirs, especially if a reportedly divided Chelsea camp surrendered some more points. With the beleaguered Rafa Benitez at the helm, Stamford Bridge is a cauldron of discontent, and it is difficult to predict how their players will react to that on any given match day.

For all the excitement around Spurs, Chelsea are still rightly favourites to finish top of the London clubs in the league. If Villas-Boas were to somehow upset the odds in this regard it would be an unbelievable end to an excellent first season, but however it finishes up, the Portuguese manager has restored his reputation in English football.

images: © Vladimir Maiorov, © Vladimir Maiorov

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