The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs Chelsea
A capital cracker to kick off the New Year.
- Spurs 0-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Leicester 1-2 Spurs (Prem)
- Spurs 2-1 Burnley (Prem)
- Spurs 4-0 Newcastle (LC)
- Swansea 1-2 Spurs (Prem)
- So'ton 1-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Stoke 0-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- Derby 1-3 Chelsea (LC)
- Chelsea 2-0 Hull (Prem)
Four weeks is a long time in football. Since Chelsea beat Tottenham 3-0 at Stamford Bridge less than a month ago, the north Londoners have won one more point than the title favourites, despite rarely getting out of third gear. The sign of a good team? Possibly. The sign of a resilient team? Probably. The sign of a fit team? Certainly, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino, after his team finished the 0-0 draw with Manchester United in the ascendancy.
The Argentine is finally creating a Spurs side in his own, high-energy image, a defensive fallibility offset by the willingness to dig in and a couple of match-winners in Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. If Pochettino’s pressers really are the fittest team in the land, a third game in six days should prove it.
This is Chelsea, though, who Spurs have failed to beat in nearly five years (25 at the Bridge); a Chelsea fuelled by the injustice of a blatant penalty that wasn’t given against Southampton in their last outing, prompting Jose Mourinho to claim there is a “campaign” against the Blues after a number of high-profile ‘simulation’ incidents.
Fitness will also be high on the agenda in the leaders’ camp going into this game, with one of Mourinho’s team’s strengths – having a settled starting line-up – potentially becoming cause for concern amid the fixture congestion.
While Spurs made five changes for their last game, Chelsea made just two, huffing and puffing but rarely threatening to blow Saints’ house down. Is it finally time for the Special One to shuffle his pack?
After changing five against Man United, Pochettino may look to freshen things up again, with the main aim conceding fewer chances than they did against Louis van Gaal’s men. Nabil Bentaleb could return from illness to shore up the midfield, while Kyle Walker and Erik Lamela may both start, having been 'rotated out' on Sunday. Emmanuel Adebayor has yet to come back into the squad after taking compassionate leave, while Aaron Lennon, Etienne Capoue and club captain Younes Kaboul remain out of favour.
Chelsea have no injury concerns, but Willian will hope to come back into the team in place of Andre Schurrle after replacing the German at half-time against Southampton.
Player to watch: Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
Having spent most of the season breaking forward from the base of midfield to devastating effect (13 assists already), Fabregas played in a more advanced role against Southampton. But as you can see from the graphic below, he was just as influential. Would he have had even more of an impact on the game if that penalty had been given? If Mourinho does rest some players against Spurs, Fabregas won’t be one of them.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 3-0 Spurs (PL, Dec 14)
- Chelsea 4-0 Spurs (PL, Mar 14)
- Spurs 1-1 Chelsea (PL, Sep 13)
- Chelsea 2-2 Spurs (PL, May 13)
- Spurs 2-4 Chelsea (PL, Oct 12)
“Mourinho knows me and I know him,” said Pochettino ahead of Spurs’ visit to Stamford Bridge earlier this month. Indeed, the two are cordial with one another, but that didn’t stop the Special One inflicting a seventh defeat in as many games between the two on the man who was once tipped to replace the Portuguese at Real Madrid. The former Espanyol manager will at least take heart from the fact that his side fashioned two gilt-edged chances before two goals in five minutes set the Blues on the way to a 3-0 stroll.
Facts and figures
- Cesc Fabregas has assisted 8 goals in his last 8 Premier League games against Tottenham and scored 2 himself.
- Since 2006/07 Chelsea have picked up 17 yellow cards for simulation, more than any other Premier League side (Tottenham have 16 in that period).
- Every time Chelsea have scored 2 or more goals in the Premier League this season they have won (14 times); every time they have scored fewer than twice they have failed to win (5 times).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
No pain at the Lane for Jose. 1-2.
Back 1-2 at 8/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication