A beleaguered and slightly miffed Harry Redknapp may just look at Wednesday's trip to relegation-threatened Bolton as a gift from the heavens, as he simultaneously tries to re-start Spurs' late-season charge to Champions League football next year and handle the disappointment of being overlooked for the England manager's post.
Tottenham will play Bolton knowing that a win for them would put them within a point of third-placed Arsenal with only two games to go and crank up the pressure on Arsene Wenger's side, in this hugely intriguing four-way fight for the final two Champions League positions for next year. However, should they lose and either one of Newcastle and Chelsea (who play each other at the same time as the Trotters entertain Redknapp and his men) will leapfrog Spurs into third place; assuming of course there is winner in the second game. Tottenham have 62 points from 35 games, as do Newcastle and Chelsea are a point behind.
Spurs have a relatively easy run-in to the rest of the season. They will follow Bolton with a trip to Villa Park and a home game against Fulham, while both Chelsea and Newcastle have tough games against Liverpool and Manchester City, respectively.
The dust has only now begun to settle on the tragic Fabrice Muamba incident for Bolton. The English defensive midfielder collapsed with a cardiac arrest in the FA Cup game against... well, Tottenham. The incident left a horribly sour taste in the mouths of players and officials of both clubs and Wednesday's game will be a reminder of that incident.
However, the game will not be played in a sombre mood. The miraculous recovery of the 24 year old player and news he will be at the Reebok to watch the game should both put smiles on everyone's faces and push the home side to perform for their comrade.
Bolton will go into the game on the back of a reasonable run of form. They are unbeaten in three and earned a creditable four points from their last two games - both of which were on the road - a 2-1 win at Villa Park and a 2-2 draw at Sunderland. They will also be buoyed by the fact their home form is actually surprisingly good. Owen Coyle's men have only lost once at home in their last four games - a 0-3 defeat to Fulham. However, and Coyle will be fully aware of this, given the club's precarious position in the league - occupying the final relegation spot and six points short of the traditional 40-point safety zone - a hugely improved performance will be needed.
Spurs, meanwhile, have had a soap opera of a season. After a first half in which they were so comfortable they were being spoken of as outside bets for the title, they have slumped to a point where they have won only twice in 10 games. It may be stretching it too far to link that slump to speculation over Redknapp leaving the club but the timing of both renders any other reasonable explanation for the loss of form difficult to believe.
However, given that the issue of who will coach England at the 2012 European Championships has been settled, Redknapp may have just about enough time to re-focus his charges' attentions and re-establish himself and the club as genuine Champions League material.
Only five points separate Arsenal in third from Chelsea in sixth and given the up-and-down season that Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle and Chelsea (the four contenders for the final two Champions League spots for next season) have had, it is impossible to predict who the two winners will be and Redknapp will be keen his players understand the three remaining games of the season are all must-wins.
Coyle will be thankful he has no major injury concerns and can potentially pick from a full strength side should defender Gretar Steinsson and midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker recover from a minor illness and injury, respectively. However, he will continue to miss midfielder Darren Pratley and winger Gregg Wylde; the latter has still not been cleared to play by FIFA, following a transfer from Rangers.
Spurs, meanwhile, have considerable injury problems. Midfielders Niko Kranjcar and Tom Huddlestone are both definitely out, as are defenders Michael Dawson, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Ledley King. Winger Aaron Lennon, midfielder Scott Parker and striker Louis Saha could play but will have to pass late fitness tests.
- Bolton have failed to keep clean sheets in the last 10 league games against Spurs.
- Spurs have won all five of their games against Bolton, at White Hart Lane, since Coyle took over.
Man to Watch:
Bolton - Kevin Davies. The veteran forward was on hand to score twice in Bolton's last game - away to Sunderland - and earn a valuable point. The brace took his season's tally to five, three behind club top scorer Ivan Klasnic and Coyle will call on all of Davies' Premier League experience in the coming games
Tottenham - Luka Modric. Bolton are the underdogs here. As such, to walk away with a point, even if it is at home, will be considered a good evening's work and while all the talk may well be about Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor, the key to the trio's goal scoring success is the Croatian midfielder and his passing and control of the game.
Where to Watch Live:
This is an enormous game for both sides. Should Bolton lose then they are almost certainly going to get relegated and should Spurs lose (and either Chelsea or Newcastle win), Redknapp could lose considerable ground on the dream of playing Champions League next season. The pressure, we should add, is on Redknapp for a different reason too. Gareth Bale has been quoted as saying he could force a move, ahead of next season, if the club does not qualify for the Champions League next season and given the contributions of the Welsh defender/winger to Spurs in recent seasons, his transfer could be a huge blow to both the club's aspirations and status. In addition, Redknapp's own admissions that the fate of key midfielder Luka Modric is no longer in his hands could deal a similar blow.
Bolton 0 - Tottenham 1