Premier League | Stamford Bridge | Sat 8 Mar | 5:30pm
Chelsea’s chance to put daylight between them and City.
The importance of this game to Chelsea’s season should sharpen even the most air-mile-addled player. Win and they go nine points clear of Manchester City who will, conveniently, then have three games in hand. But there’s an old saying about birds in hands and bushes that would ring even truer were Chelsea to take all three points on Saturday.
- Fulham 1-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- Galatasaray 1-1 Chelsea (CL)
- Chelsea 1-0 Everton (Prem)
- Man City 2-0 Chelsea (FAC)
- WBA 1-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-1 Dnipro (EL)
- Norwich 1-0 Tottenham (Prem)
- Dnipro 1-0 Tottenham (EL)
- Newcastle 0-4 Tottenham (Prem)
Tottenham come into the game with a dramatic Europa League win and a slightly less dramatic league win over Cardiff under their belts. The trip to Stamford Bridge is a whole different shebang.
The challenge facing Spurs resides mainly on the tactics board. There’s a big question mark over Tim Sherwood’s ability to mix it with the more tactically astute managers out there. Also, his performance on the touchline against Dnipro resembled that of a fan who had stepped over the hoardings and taken up a position in the technical area – it was full on “Terrace Tim”. The “up and at ‘em” attitude works for a bit, but its effectiveness soon wanes, particularly if results don’t match the pre-match pump up. Just ask Kevin Keegan.
If ever a fixture could be hampered by the international break, it was going to be this one. The number of Brazilians alone representing these two sides means that a quick jaunt to Johannesburg for a friendly at Soccer City won’t have been welcomed by either gaffer. Thankfully it looks like most returned unscathed.
Kyle Walker withdrew from England duty in midweek, while Christian Eriksen joined up with Denmark despite being injured. Both remain doubts for Saturday. The majority of Chelsea’s internationals had injury-free run-outs, but Eden Hazard’s ankle felt the chunky end of a Cheick Tiote challenge as Belgium faced Ivory Coast. The 23-year-old - arguably the Premier League’s form player right now - should be fit.
Key battle: Chelsea's attack vs Spurs' defence
The Blues had an astonishing night against West Ham. A remarkable 39 shots resulted in only 9 efforts on target and 0 goals. One would imagine Sherwood has played that footage back a couple of times trying to work out exactly how Sam Allardyce managed it. In contrast, Chelsea’s attacking performance against Newcastle was a lot more effective, with 18 efforts bringing 8 on target and 3 goals.
The big question for Chelsea is who they stick up front against Jan Vertonghen and, presumably, Michael Dawson. Is it worth picking Fernando Torres again after the Spaniard had that little set-to with Vertonghen in the reverse fixture? You remember the one… with the face scratch. Yeah, that. Could be tasty. Torres will be smarting from missing out on the Spain squad – he should run around like a blue-arsed fly.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 1-1 Chelsea (Prem, Sep 13)
- Chelsea 2-2 Spurs (Prem, May 13)
- Spurs 2-4 Chelsea (Prem, Oct 12)
- Spurs 1-5 Chelsea (FAC, Apr 12)
- Chelsea 0-0 Spurs (Prem, Mar 12)
One would imagine Jose Mourinho could have Sherwood for breakfast on pretty much any level of management. Right from personnel, to tactics, to mind games - you fear for Sherwood’s chances.
But one should never underestimate the power of motivation, particularly if Sherwood manages to focus his defence to park the bus effectively and stick their bodies on the line. It worked for West Ham – a team who boast significantly inferior personnel to Spurs. Counter-attacking football will be Sherwood’s plan, and Mourinho will know that.
If it’s a war of attrition you’re after, Stamford Bridge is your venue for Saturday big-fun time. Mind you, ending that interminable home record would be a nice icing on the Spurs cake.
Facts and figures
- 5 of the last 7 meetings between these teams have finished level, including three 1-1 scores.
- Chelsea’s 9 games this season against the current top 7 have featured just 15 goals.
- 5 of Chelsea’s last 9 matches have been goalless at half-time.
- Spurs have won the second half in 12 of their last 20 away games – the best record in the league.
- Chelsea have won 2-1 in 5 of their last 7 home games against top-six teams.
Best Bet: HT Draw/ FT Chelsea @ 18/5
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A 2-0 Chelsea win with Sherwood sent to the stands for over-heating in the technical area.