As is often the case, Tottenham are splitting opinions in 2015/16.
On the one hand, their improved defensive strength has made them contenders for a Champions League spot and a Europa League tilt. On the other, they are yet again failing to beat the sides that any self-respecting top-four challenger would regularly dispatch.
Few can argue with followers of the first theory. Mauricio Pochettino is managing the Premier League’s sternest defence at present and has drastically improved the Lilywhites’ solidity through shrewd buying and canny positional changes (see Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier).
However, keeping things tight at the back is only a winning formula if the side can stick the ball away at the sharp end and so far, Spurs aren’t quite cutting that particular brand of mustard.
Both 18th-placed Newcastle and Norwich, two spots above the beleaguered Geordies, have more league goals than the north Londoners. If their defensive recruitment was superb, then their failure to provide Harry Kane with high-quality backup was criminal.
All the while that their England man strives for his best in front of goal, Spurs will merely be one of those “tough to beat” top six/eight clubs, rather than a crushing Champions League-worthy juggernaut.
Although that’s not exactly the news that the club’s expectant fans wish to hear, it’s not actually a bad thing.
If anything, the Europa League has educated Spurs in how to avoid defeat. Their jaunts through the continent’s B-list competition have been far from eye-catching, but they have become masters of negotiating paths to the latter rounds.
They’ve reached the round of 32 six times in their seven previous Uefa Cup/Europa League campaigns, that’s amid all the travelling, fixture pileups and general indifference to the competition.
On tough away days, like the one they face at Anderlecht on Thursday and the one they escaped in Monaco last time out, the draw has become a good result. It’s one that Ladbrokes customers should back with gusto too, at 12/5.
All three previous meetings between these two ended up 1-1 and a fourth in the chain is available at 5/1.
Across their combined league campaigns, Anderlecht and Spurs have lost two games and drawn nine. They’re set to be deadlocked once again.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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