Tottenham V Chelsea, Premier League, Wembley Stadium London, Sunday 20th August 2017
It’s Tottenham versus Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday meaning last season’s champions visiting the team who ran them closest just a matter of months ago. It’s also a game between two fierce London rivals, whose animosity on the pitch, highlighted by the now-famous ‘Battle of the Bridge’ two seasons ago, is only equalled by the hostility between the fans off it, and a game between two teams, if media reports are to be believed, that are not only competing for the same transfer targets, but are involved in acrimonious (non)discussions regarding Tottenham’s outspoken left-back Danny Rose, who voiced his disquiet last week regarding his club’s lack of investment or fair wages.
Who will win is a subject of great discourse too. Spurs negotiated the last league campaign unbeaten at home, and began the season in confident fashion by putting Newcastle to the sword at St. James’ Park. Chelsea, on the other hand, were surprisingly beaten at Stamford Bridge by expected-strugglers Burnley; a game that highlighted a lack of squad depth and previously-unseen disciplinary issues. Suffice to say coach Antonio Conte wasn’t happy, and has spent the proceeding days looking to deepen his options by scouring the market – hence the enquiry for Rose. With Chelsea’s injury problems now supplemented by unwanted suspensions, a home win would look good value if it were not for one overriding factor: Wembley.
Yes, it’s a word that strikes fear into the heart of every Spurs supporter, and a monkey that the club will quickly need to shrug off it’s back if the team is to enjoy the kind of success it has become accustomed to over recent times, especially at ‘home.’ Coach Mauricio Pochettino has played down the issue, and has instead commented that the wide-open spaces of the national stadium – Tottenham’s home from home for a season while their new 61,000-seater stadium is completed – may actually assist his dynamic, youthful side. The proof will be in the pudding, as they say, and Chelsea could not represent better opponents to see if this will indeed be a hindrance to the club’s chances this season, or an overstated concern. Much has been made of Spurs’ record of only two wins from ten at the stadium since it was reopened in 2007 (one of which was an extra-time victory over the Blues to claim the 2008 League Cup), but it can’t be denied that the calibre of team usually faced at the iconic stadium is not of every-day quality. Two of those defeats came against Sunday’s opponents for example, including most recently a 4-2 loss in last season’s FA Cup semi-final, so this game presents itself as an opportunity for the ‘home’ side to cast aside several demons.
Spurs’ recent record against Chelsea has been quite good, especially at home, and the team emphatically defeated the champions elect at White Hart Lane in January last year in a game that should provide sufficient confidence to a team which will feature largely the same group of players, mainly due to the club’s now much-maligned inactivity in the transfer market.
Conte continues to seek recruits, and it remains to be seen whether any will be in place to feature in Sunday’s game. The list of missing personnel reads like a veritable who’s who of last season’s title-winning side: Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fàbregas, Gary Cahill and Pedro are joined by new signing Tiémoué Bakayoko on the sidelines for this one. It is this, rather than any supposed Wembley hoodoo on behalf of the hosts, which should factor more significantly in this game.
Looking at the betting, backing a Tottenham win can secure odds of 2.10 with Marathonbet and Unibet, among a number of other bookmakers, and is the only option which successfully combines logic and value. Then backing Both Teams to Score is best at 1.73 with BetFred, while going over 2.5 goals is 1.91 with 188bet.
Will the curse continue or will it be a case of new-found home comforts for Pochettino’s side? Will lasts season’s champions finally arrive at the 2017/18 party? Sunday will reveal all.