Saturday 26th November 2016
Who can forget the scenes in west London back in May, a game now unsurprisingly referred to as ‘The Battle of Stamford Bridge.’ That was the day Leicester City were confirmed as Premier League champions after Spurs threw away a two-goal lead against their bitter rivals to concede the title. But that only told half the story. Tottenham set a Premier league record of nine bookings that night, with Chelsea receiving a further three, while Spurs’ Mousa Dembele received a retrospective six-game ban for appearing to eye gouge Chelsea’s Diego Costa, and both teams and playing staff became embroiled in a melee after the final whistle which resulted in accusations being launched from both sides in the aftermath. With Chelsea top of the pile this time round and Spurs the only undefeated team in the league back in fifth, you would be correct in thinking it is all set up for another mouth-watering game at the Bridge on Saturday evening, especially with memories of last season so fresh in the minds of all concerned.
A fine start followed by a worrying slump, backed up by a run of six consecutive victories taking them to the top of the league – this has been Chelsea and new boss Antonio Conte’s season so far. The Blues have been in fine form of late and in Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, possess the league’s top scorer and in-form player. Costa already has ten goals to his name after only managing 12 last time out, whilst Hazard, the league’s best player in Chelsea’s title-winning campaign of 2014/15, has already notched on seven occasions, making a mockery of just four goals last season in a hugely disappointing campaign for both player and club which saw boss Jose Mourinho sacked in December. What a different season it has been thus far, and Antonio Conte has further cemented his reputation as a canny tactician earned with successes at Juventus and with the Italian national team by switching his system to a back three after disappointing early defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal. The only blot on Chelsea’s season to date has been these defeats against the only other top four teams they have played, but recent emphatic victories over Manchester United and Everton, combined with a host of impressive individual performances from the likes of Costa, Hazard, David Luiz and Victor Moses, bodes well for the rest of the season, especially without the distraction of European football to contend with. Victory on Saturday would see the home side seven points ahead of fifth-placed Spurs, and leave Blues supporters dreaming of another Premier League crown.
All eyes will be on Spurs in this one. That Tottenham’s players were enraged on their last visit to Stamford Bridge is undeniable, but how those players handle a return to the scene of the crime is perhaps even more intriguing, especially after the disappointment of their Champions League elimination on Tuesday night. That they will be goaded by the home fans for both their lacklustre European exit and spectacular implosion last season is not in question, but how Mauricio Pochettino’s side handle it just may be. The stakes are a lot lower this time round, but pride is at stake, as is Tottenham’s thus far undefeated record in the league. Too many draws have blighted that record somewhat, and no one at Tottenham could claim the side have found the same level of form that propelled them to the edge of glory last season. But the North London side are an incredibly difficult team to beat (in the Premier League at least), as their last gasp victory over West Ham last weekend attested to. In fact, over the course of this season and last, Spurs have lost fewer games than any other side, so a Chelsea win here, despite the history books, is far from assured. And with Harry Kane returning to fitness and form, Spurs have their most potent attacking weapon at their disposal once more. And Kane loves playing against his side’s London rivals – he has three in four against the Blues, including the opener in that uneventful game at the Bridge last time out.
Head-to-head and team news
History does not look good for Tottenham. After throwing away their two-goal lead last season, Spurs stretched their winless run at Stamford Bridge to 30 matches in all competitions, dating back to 1990. In the Premier League era, Spurs have only defeated the west London side on 4 occasions (from 48 meetings), all at White Hart Lane. In the more recent past, Spurs have drawn three of their last five Premier League encounters at the Bridge, but they still seek the elusive victory that would mean an end to one of the worst on-running records in the Premier League.
Chelsea have no present injury worries ahead of the game, and with the Blues absent from European competition this time out, have the advantage of a week’s rest beforehand. Pochettino will need to assess his troops after the disastrous trip to Monaco, both physically and mentally, but Toby Alderweireld will not be ready in time, and there are further doubts over Erik Lamela and Ben Davies. With Danny Rose suspended, Jan Vertonghen could be moved to left back, meaning the combination of Dier and Wimmer again in the centre of defence – a pairing that was so ruthlessly exposed in Monte Carlo.
The stats that matter
- Tottenham are the only undefeated side remaining in the professional English leagues
- Chelsea are on a run of six consecutive Premier League wins. Only Arsenal have matched this run so far this season.
- Only Liverpool (30) have scored more goals than Chelsea (27).
- Chelsea’s defensive record of conceding nine goals is only bettered in the Premier League by Tottenham’s eight.
- Chelsea are undefeated against Spurs at home for 26 years, a run stretching 30 matches in all competitions.
- Harry Kane has scored 18 goals in 22 London derbies, including 17 in his last 16. Of players to have played more than ten London derbies, Kane has the best goals to games ratio in Premier League history (0.82)
It’s very difficult to look past a Chelsea win here, despite Tottenham’s unbeaten record. Spurs have not been playing well, and despite their defensive solidity in the Premier League, performances in Europe have revealed a worryingly soft centre without Alderweireld and Vertonghen. With the former likely to be missing, and the latter likely to be switched left, a combination of Dier and Wimmer will send shivers down the spines of Spurs supporters. Chelsea have been in scintillating form, and their record against Tottenham is beyond impressive, even with Harry Kane scoring for fun against fellow London sides.
Match Odds – Chelsea 1.75 (William Hill / Bwin)
Halftime/full time – Chelsea 2.80 (BetVictor / Coral)
Harry Kane to score anytime – 3.50 (Selected)