There are just six clubs that have played all 25 seasons of the Premier League. Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United boast multiple championships in that period. Liverpool was dominant in the years leading up to the league’s founding in 1992. Even Everton won two titles in the 1980s.
And then there is Tottenham Hotspur, one of the most consistent teams in England but one that has rarely found its way to greatness. Spurs have a huge following in Minnesota, and perhaps this is the reason: Long-suffering Minnesota sports fans can identify with the team that never quite makes it to the top.
Over the past half-century, Tottenham rarely has been bad. In all that time, though, titles and glory have more or less eluded Spurs. They haven’t won a league title since 1961 or the FA Cup since 1991. They haven’t finished ahead of hated North London rivals Arsenal since 1995, a period with a couple epic end-of-season collapses that opened the door for Arsenal to just barely squeak ahead.
With five games to go in the Premier League season, Spurs are again valiantly chasing the title. Tottenham is the only team that’s proved any sort of rival to Chelsea this year. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte called Tottenham “the best team in England” before the two clubs met last weekend in an FA Cup semifinal, and he wasn’t wrong; Spurs have outscored their opponents 23-4 during their current eight-game league winning streak.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino has assembled what is perhaps England’s best collection of young talent at Tottenham. It’s a group led by 23-year-old striker Harry Kane, who recently scored his 20th league goal — the third consecutive season in which he’s scored at least 20 times in the Premier League. He became just the fourth player in Premier League history to have done so.
In true Spurs fashion, though, they lost that semifinal against Chelsea 4-2. Their valiant title chase is bringing back memories of last season, when every traditional powerhouse fell on its face, but Spurs — like everyone else in England — couldn’t chase down the Leicester City juggernaut. The defining moment of Tottenham’s season might have been the night Leicester clinched the title. Spurs led Chelsea 2-0 at halftime but blew the lead and drew 2-2, setting a Premier League record for yellow cards in a game (nine) and touching off two separate brawls.
Tottenham’s local fans will gather Sunday at the Nomad World Pub in Minneapolis for the latest edition of the North London derby against Arsenal. A victory would guarantee that Spurs finish above Arsenal this year and go a long way toward their title chase.
You would forgive those fans for being hopeful, but not optimistic. It’s been a long half-century for Tottenham fans. Their hope is that 2017 is the year to finally end the drought.
• The Premier League isn’t the only league that suddenly has a title race on. Barcelona took over the top spot in Spain after a 3-2 victory at Real Madrid, with a stoppage-time goal by Lionel Messi providing the difference. In France, Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain are tied at the top; Monaco has a game in hand but also has Champions League commitments to worry about.
• Burnley midfielder Joey Barton, at the center of controversy throughout his career, has been banned 18 months for betting on soccer games. Barton bet on more than 1,200 games, including a handful of times on his own team to lose. In a statement, he claimed that the suspension would end his career. Soccer is the better for it.
• Your CONCACAF Champions League winner is Pachuca, which defeated Tigres to earn the continental championship and a spot in the Club World Cup next winter. It could be the end of the Pachuca road for forward Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, who is good enough to be a potential transfer target for a number of big European teams.
WEEKEND WATCH GUIDE
NWSL: Chicago at Portland, 3 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime. Early results are mixed, but both of these squads are expected to contend for an NWSL playoff spot this year. Keep an eye on Chicago’s Julie Ertz, who has starred at center back for Chicago and the United States over the past few years. Ertz was moved up into an attacking midfield role last week and dominated. Will she do it again?
Liga MX: Tijuana at Tigres, 7 p.m. Saturday, Galavision. Tijuana is back in the league lead, with two games to play in the Clausura. Tigres — the Apertura champions — is currently on the outside of the playoff picture. In a reversal of recent years, Tijuana has been fine on the road lately, with four victories in its last six games. Can it knock Tigres out of playoff contention?
Premier League: Chelsea at Everton, 8 a.m. Sunday, CNBC. Two losses in five games have brought Chelsea back within Tottenham’s sights. This is the league leader’s most difficult game for the rest of the year, as Everton has improved throughout the year. Any dropped points by Chelsea could bring it back within a single bad result of losing the league lead.
Premier League: Arsenal at Tottenham, 10:30 a.m. Sunday, NBCSN. Unlike Spurs, Arsenal isn’t chasing a league title, unless you count a spot in the Champions League, which manager Arsène Wenger once likened to a trophy in its own right. In sixth place with six games to go, Wenger’s men need to win — and to get help from elsewhere — to land in the top four again.