Andre Villas-Boas admits Tottenham go into the final game of the season against Sunderland bracing themselves for yet more Champions League disappointment on Sunday.
After appearing secure in the top four when they were seven points clear of Arsenal in March, Villas-Boas's side welcome Sunderland to White Hart Lane knowing even a victory may not be enough to clinch a place in Europe's premier club competition.
Lying fifth, a point behind Arsenal, Spurs could again be left frustrated 12 months after being denied entry to the Champions League despite finishing fourth when Chelsea claimed the final spot as holders of the trophy.
To add to their frustration, a win against Sunderland will mean they end the season with 72 points, the club's highest ever Premier League tally.
"In the past it would have been enough to make it," said Villas-Boas.
"It would have been enough apart from the 2007/08 season when the fourth-placed team (Liverpool) finished with 76 points.
"I think what it represents, if we don't achieve it, is one more sign that you have to push up to get closer to that group.
"Whenever that group is competing for titles, the reference of points will be higher and you have to improve and you have to get more points the next time.
"Our step at the moment is to be into the Champions League, probably not title contenders but we hope to be competitive next season if we manage to do things properly in the summer.
"You have to strengthen for next season to get a higher tally of points."
If Tottenham are to improve their challenge next season, they will have to strengthen and Villas-Boas admitted he is an admirer of David Villa, the Barcelona striker who has been linked with the north London club.
"He is one of the world's best strikers," Villas-Boas said. "You can see that speculation is growing but at the moment we are focused on trying to get fourth spot."
Meanwhile, Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio is already looking ahead to pre-season after insisting there can be no repeat of his team's narrow escape from relegation.
The Wearside club were only guaranteed an eighth consecutive campaign in the top flight by Wigan's midweek defeat at Arsenal, which condemned the Latics to the Championship.
Sunderland have taken eight points in the six games since Di Canio took charge at the end of March to help them keep out of the bottom three, and the former West Ham forward said: "We're safe, but there are no celebrations. The hard work starts now.
"We have a chance to build something for the future with the players we've got, and others that will join in the summer, but it won't be easy.
It's a new start. We'll have the players back in for a couple of days next week before their holidays, then we start looking towards pre-season.
"That first month together as a squad before the season starts is crucial. You're with each other morning, afternoon, morning, afternoon and you really get to know each other.
"It's a crucial time for a manager when shaping the squad."
Sunderland, who have won once in 29 years at White Hart Lane, are without suspended duo Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner. Skipper Lee Cattermole and defenders Wes Brown and Titus Bramble are all sidelined through injury.
Di Canio, who has threatened to cut his players' summer holidays short if they fail to perform in their final match of the season, is unlikely to blood any of the young Sunderland players he has named on the bench in recent weeks.