The story of Tottenham’s Conference League disaster awaits its final twist | Tottenham Hotspur


Eeven now, at this distance, the video retains all its shock value; black comedy blending perfectly with jubilation. Tottenham had lost 1-0 at Paços de Ferreira on August 19 in the first leg of the Europa Conference League play-offs and that was the incentive for the Portuguese club to get going. Again.

After the draw, Paços had uploaded a clip of two of their fans discuss meeting a London giant. Which was it? They went through every possible possibility, deliberately ignoring Spurs, until they were told it was them. “Oh, those guys… We can easily beat Tottenham,” they say, before clinking their beer bottles together.

Now with victory theirs has come this TikTok Video. It was not delivered by the club this time, but rather endorsed by them with a follow-up commentary. It showed the Paços mascot, a giant beaver, twirling suggestively behind its Spurs counterpart, a giant rooster, while a supporter did the same to their right.

Needless to say, Spurs’ haters in London and beyond loved it and it rather set the tone for the club’s participation in UEFA’s new third-tier competition. Spurs would beat Paços 3-0 in the return to qualify for the group stage, but they haven’t really been able to win so far, only to avoid humiliation at best and rush headlong into his grip at worst. As they have done pretty much every time they have traveled away from home.

Since that famous game, Paços have won only once all season and, while Spurs’ 2-2 draw at Rennes was creditable enough, the occasion was memorable mainly for the sight of Harry Kane leading the way. team – shortly after failing to secure the transfer, he wanted Manchester City. It was a meme trigger. Wasn’t Kane supposed to play Champions League football?

Then there were the defeats at Vitesse and NS Mura, the former after then-manager Nuno Espírito Santo left his first XI in London to rest for the weekend’s Premier League fixture. at West Ham; the latter at the hands of the Slovenian minnows – the lowest-placed team in the group stage – was one of the most embarrassing nights in Spurs history. It sparked an angry reaction from Nuno’s successor, Antonio Conte, who said he now understood the scale of the challenge he faced.

Antonio Conte looks on during Tottenham’s home game against Vitesse, upset at the delay to Spurs’ final group game. Photograph: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images

Criticism from inside and outside the club was a recurring theme. Midfielder Harry Winks suggested Nuno’s selection at Vitesse was divisive. “We’re supposed to be a team… everyone should be fighting for the weekend games and that’s tough,” he said. “The motivation should be that everyone is fighting for the same cause.”

And now Spurs find themselves under fire from Rennes and even Vitesse over their request to postpone Thursday night’s final group game at home against Rennes as they reel from the impact of a coronavirus outbreak. Covid, which forced them to close the first team area of ​​the training ground.

Rennes, who have already topped Group G, raged at being forced to travel and then not play, muttering the impression that Tottenham were still roughly above the UEFA threshold of having 13 senior players available (including a goalkeeper).

Meanwhile, Vitesse, who are battling for second place and a place in a two-man play-off to reach the last 16, were unhappy to play Thursday night at home against Mura while their rivals waited. This was because goal difference was a separating factor between the teams. Vitesse pointed out that Spurs sent a B team to play them. Why couldn’t they do it against Rennes?

Maximilian Wittek of Vitesse scores the goal that beat Tottenham in the Netherlands.
Maximilian Wittek of Vitesse scores the goal that beat Tottenham in the Netherlands. Photography: Peter de Jong/AP

To repeat, Spurs have been ravaged by a frightening illness, kicked out of their workplace, wracked with uncertainty and yet they continue to soak up pot-shots.

The club’s Conference League campaign has been a disaster from the start and yet it’s not over. But for a quirk of fate, it would have been after Vitesse won 3-1 at home to Mura. Spurs’ away result against the Dutch club was a 1-0 loss before beating them 3-2 at home, meaning they are level in the first tiebreaker on points, goal difference and goals scored.

Previously, Vitesse’s greater number of away goals in matches between the clubs would have given them the advantage, but UEFA have dropped that rule this season and are now switching to goal difference in all club matches. group.

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The result of Vitesse’s margin of victory over Mura has been that Spurs need a win by any score when they play Rennes’ rearranged game. In other words, they remain in control to advance in the competition in which they did not want to participate; to add up to nine more games to the second half of their season – at a time when Conte is aiming to crack the top four in the league.

Regardless of the oddly troubling Thursday-Sunday cycle, what value would there be in winning the Conference League? For many spectators, it has been written in the stars that Spurs will reach the final and face Roma, led by their former manager, José Mourinho. From all the available evidence, they should be careful what they wish for.

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