Tottenham have been in contention for a top four finish all season but on Friday were given an unwanted reminder of the last time they were on course for Champions League qualification and fell agonisingly short at the final hurdle.
In May 2006 they had to do better than local rivals Arsenal on the final day to finish fourth but lost against West Ham after a virus swept through the squad and had to settle for UEFA Cup football instead.
It was a similar scenario this week, with at least two first team players complaining of sickness and all those affected being banned from the club’s Essex training base for 48 hours ahead of Sunday’s home game with Everton.
Manager Harry Redknapp confirmed that defender Vedrun Corluka, the Croatia international, and Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios had been affected by the bug, although neither has yet been ruled out of the lunchtime fixture.
“We have had a virus problem at the training ground and we’ve closed it down,” he said.
“We are going to train there but everything else is off limits – the offices and the cafeteria. There will be no food or anything.
“We had a few down with it the other day – Corluka had the virus and Palacios was not feeling great with it either – and it has swept through the Academy. There is about 18 who work there or the kids who have all got it so the doctor decided we couldn’t use it.
“It hasn’t disrupted us, we are still training as normal and hopefully no-one else gets it but there have been so many other people who have gone down with it. It is certainly spreading.”
Tottenham are currently in fourth place having beaten Wigan in the Premier League last weekend and also knocked Bolton out of the FA Cup in midweek, with Russia international Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring twice in both games.
Everton were beaten 3-0 at Sporting Lisbon on Thursday to drop out of the Europa League but have begun to enjoy life in the Premier League once more.
Key players have been returning from lengthy injury lay-offs, with Manchester United and Chelsea beaten in the last two games and only one defeat – the 1-0 loss to Liverpool – recorded since the end of November.
Indeed, victory at White Hart Lane would put Everton five points behind Tottenham with a game in hand.
“It wasn’t long ago that we were third or fourth off bottom,” manager David Moyes reflected.
“We will try to get as high as we can, but we’re coming from a long way behind. We’ve got some big games coming up – it’s Tottenham next – and we’ll just try to keep moving up the table.”
Everton striker Louis Saha will be the visitors’ main goal threat and the former Manchester United forward has been called up to the France squad for the first time since 2006 after his 15 goals put him in contention for a World Cup place.