It’s a huge weekend for…AVB, Arsenal, Jorge Jesus, Schalke and Freiburg
Should Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League this weekend, there will undoubtedly be a stream of bullsh*t dictating that darling ‘Arry did a better job to get fourth last season.
However, just look at it like this. Should Spurs beat Sunderland on Sunday (like that, alliteration fans?) they will have their highest ever Premier League points total. That’s despite losing Luka Modric and Ledley King and having 1.5 strikers in the squad for most of the season. In any other season since 1995 Spurs would have enough points to have made the top four, and have had significant injury problems.
The chances are that Tottenham will miss out on Europe’s premier competition, but it cannot be said that Villas-Boas has not started a particularly impressive project. Whether Gareth Bale departs or not, he must now be backed to improve things.
And it comes to this. There have been sticky times and there have been stickier times, but should Arsenal win at St James’ Park on Sunday, they will continue their run of qualification for the Champions League in every season since Arsene Wenger took charge.
The Frenchman has taken a great deal of criticism this season, and there were times when it seemed he would surely depart the Emirates. That he remains is a testament to his response and character.
On January 20th, Arsenal had 34 points and were seven behind Spurs, and 11 off Chelsea, and a top four place looked bleak. Even Everton had the advantage over the Gunners. But in the last four months Arsenal have taken four more points than any other Premier League, a run that has propelled the club within touching distance of their Promised Land.
It might not be a trophy, but for a season containing significant heartache it will do quite well, thank you very much.
Some should just check on the mental state of Benfica manager Jorge Jesus. One week ago he was preparing to take his side to rivals Porto for a title showdown, a match in which they were level after 90 minutes. With a point lead in the race for the league, that was perfectly acceptable. And then, deep into stoppage time, 19-year-old substitute striker Kelvin scored, and reduced Jesus to his knees on the touchline. In a moment the title was lost.
Fast forward four days, and Benfica gained significant plaudits as they outplayed Chelsea for large periods of their Europa League final, deservedly getting level through an Oscar Cardozo penalty. And then, deep into stoppage time, 29-year-old defender Branislav Ivanovic scored, and reduced Jesus to his knees on the touchline. In a moment, the Europa league was lost.
Two last gasp 2-1 defeats to cruelly cripple Jesus and Benfica. If football dealt in karma, Porto would drop points at Pacos Ferreira this weekend.
Freiburg & Schalke
The Bundesliga needs to stop showing off, if you ask me. An ownership structure that keeps fans’ interest at the fore, high quality football, incomparable stadium atmosphere and the permission to drink beer whilst watching the match.
Not content with all that, Germany also has a genuine final day playoff for the Champions League. After losing last week, Schalke travel to fifth-placed Freiburg with a one point advantage in fourth. Winner takes all, with Schalke taking the draw.
Go on then Bundesliga fans, you win again.