Why Tottenham should embrace treble challenge
As Tottenham prepare for the mid-way stage of a defining week in their season, James Dutton looks at whether Mauricio Pochettino's title challengers should prioritise the Europa League over the FA Cup or continue an assault on all three fronts.
Christian Eriksen celebrates with Harry Kane after scoring the second goal for TottenhamReuters
With Spurs set on a top-four finish given the ineptitude of Manchester United and the 10-point gap between them and the fifth, the allure of Champions League qualification that Europa League glory brings will be a low factor in how Pochettino values the competition.
Success in Europe would give the club prestige, a run to the latter stages in the competition perfect preparation for the impending Champions League campaign that looms ahead of them next season. Adjusting to the schedule and the travelling will be important for Pochettino's young squad if they are to also fulfil their promise and build a legacy comparable with Bill Nicholson's great title-winning side of 1961.
Maintaining the title challenge while sustaining a European run will be a difficult challenge for the manager, who rotated his squad to perhaps the maximum effect while remaining competitive by making six changes for the trip to Florence on Thursday.
Tottenham's Nacer Chadli celebrates scoring their first goal with a penaltyReuters
Keeping that equilibrium while pursuing the punishing Thursday-Sunday schedule could prove a tall order for the remainder of the season, with the combination of the FA Cup and Premier League a much easier balance to strike. On the face of things, you could see why sacrificing a shot at European glory could make sense.
And yet, this is a Spurs team that is making their fans believe, and in Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Erik Lamela they key players in the attacking third all finding form. Why not attempt an assault on Europe?
In domestic cup competitions, a victory over a Crystal Palace side bereft of confidence after a run of nine Premier League games without a win will see the FA Cup quarter-finals beckon for the first time since Harry Redknapp took them to the final eight in 2012.
At that stage, it is impossible not to take the competition seriously. Nether cup competition should be disregarded.
Sitting in this heady position in mid-February, Spurs fans won't want to end this season with any regrets, pondering what might have been. Spurs have a great chance of not only claiming their first piece of silverware since 2008 but re-writing the club's history. Who is to say they can't challenge on three fronts?
There is a constant obsession in football with dampening expectations and downplaying opportunities. Spurs fans should embrace their triple assault on glory; they could be 24 games from greatness..