Guest Post By Karl Matchett


Tottenham Hotspur continue a busy and critical week with a Europa League on Thursday evening, at home to Anderlecht, and manager Mauricio Pochettino should be seriously considering playing his strongest available side despite the looming North London derby at the weekend.


Having already beaten Aston Villa 3-1 on Monday night, Spurs are now on a run of just two defeats since the opening day of the season and have won back-to-back league games for the first time in more than a month. With the manager finally looking like he has solved the central midfield pairing and with the goals flowing freely, consistency is everything for Spurs in a big week and despite the close proximity of the next two games to each other, a full-on assault for the Europa League should be considered a priority.


Of course, in a one-off event, the match at Arsenal on Sunday is the big one. It's the game the fans look forward to, it draws attention from beyond the scope of just the local area and it will have an immediate impact on the top-four challengeÂ…but the Continental fixture against Anderlecht should have just as much importance placed on it in the context of Spurs' season overall.


While a top-four finish is possible, Tottenham know they will come under heavy pressure from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur Home Shirt 2015 - 2016Liverpool, possibly Everton and SouthamptonÂ…and even Chelsea, with a resurgence from the current title holders still a probability rather than just a possibility at this point. In the meantime, continued good results will only breed further self-confidence for Spurs, something they'll need over the long haul in the Premier League if they are to seriously keep pace with the likes of Manchester United, and indeed their biggest rivals, the Gunners.


It's worth noting that a defeat on Sunday at the Emirates-far from an unlikely outcome-will leave Tottenham already eight points behind their neighbours, who are the most in-form side in the English top flight at present.


And before that comes the Europa League. Spurs have reached a critical point in the group phase; the late defeat in Belgium last time out leaves them third in the group and they cannot afford another loss. Anderlecht are beatable, but Spurs were profligate early on and were made to pay after in the reverse fixture-but win this game and against Azerbaijan-based opponents Qarabag, and the final match day at home to AS Monaco won't matter.


Spurs have a talented squad with reasonable depth and must be considered one of the better sides in the Europa League at present. Of course the drop-downs from the Champions League are tough to predict, both in terms of who they will be and how seriously they'll take Europe's second-tier competition, but Tottenham should fancy their chances against most of the Europa League's best of the rest: Borussia Dortmund, Villarreal and Napoli might present fierce tests but Liverpool haven't yet won a Spurs Away Shirt 2015 - 2016game and Marseille, Ajax and Fiorentina sit outside the top two places in their respective groups.


A trophy and a Champions League place being on offer both represent mighty carrots on the Europa League stick.


Even if Spurs don't go on and actually win it, significant progress in the competition would represent a step forward under the manager who failed to make an impact in Europe last year, but came close to silverware with an appearance in the League Cup final, losing to Chelsea.


They have the squad depth in place to rotate a position or two without taking key players-Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier and Harry Kane all come into that category at present-out of the side, while the pure emotion and surroundings of the derby to come a few days later will ensure there is no great worry over fatigue.


Points remain to be played for in Europe and the Premier League far beyond this week, but in what could be a pivotal week for Spurs' season a third successive victory would yield nothing but major benefits heading into the Arsenal game. Confidence, positive mindsets and a good run of scoring for a few players would be just some of those benefits, but progression in Europe would also be a major upside for Pochettino and beating Anderlecht would take his side a big step closer in that regard.