The last time both these teams met at the lane, Chelsea were top of the Premier League, Spurs were trying to find their identity under Pochettino. Costa was scoring goals for fun and Kane was an unknown quantity who had suddenly sprung to life. Fast forward 11 months, Chelsea are no longer top dogs and are in the middle of an identity crisis, Spurs are firing on all cylinders with Pochettino’s philosophy finally taking full effect. Costa has come under the firing line and Kane is among the most feared marksmen in the league.
Here we take a look at whether Chelsea can get back on their bus (finally) or if Spurs will continue their high tempo, a swashbuckling brand of football under Pochettino.
With Terry out injured and Ivanovic just returning from injury, Chelsea’s back four looks nailed on with Zouma and Cahill in the heart of the defence. Azpilicueta and Baba providing the width. Delle Alli’s injury for Spurs means fit-again Mason will slot into the midfield 3.
Note: Keeper: Lloris
Chelsea are expected to start in a 4-2-3-1 (defensively to be a 4-4-1-1) with Hazard and Costa left up top to counter and Spurs are variant of 4-2-3-1 where the no.10 or the CAM is expected to contribute to attack as well as defend. It will be interesting to see if Dembele reverts to his position leading the trident in midfield or slot in the base as Pochettino puts a lot of emphasis on these two particular positions. The No.10 in Pochettino’s philosophy is an all-around combative player rather than the just the creative hub of the team. The Spurs boss had brilliantly inverted the roles of Dembele and Alli in their last match against West Ham to devastating effect. West Ham failed to control an irresistible Alli throughout the game who was involved as much in breaking attacking moves as making them.
The way Spurs go about their game with high-intensity pressing would usually be perfect for a Mourinho team. To sit back, absorb the pressure and hit them on the break is Mourinho’s trademark game plan, a plan which he usually thrives on. Chelsea’s unusual slump and identity crisis means this is not guaranteed at the moment adds an extra spice to the game. This match however difficult it might be for Chelsea at the moment based on current form would be the perfect opportunity for them to get back on track.
Ramires’s injury means Mourinho loses a hard-working player who tracks back and Terry’s injury midweek means he can’t stick Zouma in midfield. This would have been perfect for Chelsea as the back 6 would be able to absorb all the pressure and hit Spurs on the break. The lack of players who usually contribute to Chelsea’s otherwise exceptional defence puts extra pressure on the wide men – mostly Willian and Oscar to track back to the centre and also the wings. Hazard is unlikely to start out wide due to his lack of contribution to the defensive side of the game.
Chelsea’s usual deep defensive line means Spurs fast transition from defence to attack wouldn’t count for much. It will be really key for them if they can get their CAM ( Either Dembele or Mason) to account for that extra man in midfield and make late runs into the box. Willian’s and Oscars’ defensive capabilities would also be tested to the maximum as Rose and Walker have been bombing forward at every opportunity they get and it is another area which Chelsea should look to cut out. From Chelsea’s attacking point of view, Fabregas can be viewed as a key player who has the capability to unlock defences and release either Hazard or Costa. Spurs willingness to attack is likely to leave a two on two opportunity for Chelsea’s front two against Alderweireld and Vertonghen which gives them the perfect chance for a smash and grab.
It’s a classic showdown between football’s so-called good and bad, attack vs defence, possession vs absorption. Spurs started the match 11 months ago trying to find their identity under Pochettino and got a perfect response. This time around it is Chelsea’s turn to find their identity and defensive steel. The battle at the lane has all the makings of a mouth-watering Super Sunday.
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