Midday Sunday will be one of our most anticipated games of the season, away to Tottenham. A match that both sets of fans will always look for when the fixtures are released, it has a different look to it than it did last season. The match at white hart lane took place on new years day last year, and we went into it top of the league and despite drawing at Southampton in our previous match, were still playing well. The 5-3 thrashing we received was not the start to this year that we wanted, and we were well beaten on the day. In a match where no one turned up for us except Eden Hazard, it was luckily not the sign of things to come, (as far as last season was concerned anyway).
We responded well after that defeat, winning three on the bounce, keeping a hat-trick of clean sheets and netting ten goals to remind everyone that we were still, by far, the best team in the league.
Having played well in our last three matches this season, despite one of them being a defeat at Stoke, we can only hope that carrying improved form into this seasons fixture will result in a better result for us this time around.
We did comfortably beat Tottenham at home last season, continuing our unbeaten record against them at Stamford Bridge in the league stretching back to 1990. A 3-0 win was recorded only four days from being a year to the day of this fixture. The side was the same a month later when we lined up for the away match, bar Costa replacing Drogba upfront. Drogba Hazard and Remy had scored at the Bridge, Costa, Hazard and Terry netted at the lane, the only difference being we let five in at the other end.
JT may not line up this time around; he left the field on a stretcher away at Maccabi Tel Aviv midweek and is rated as 50-50 to play. Cahill partnered him in Israel, and will line up alongside Zouma if Terry is not fit. Cahill scored on Wednesday after reacting well to his header being saved, and played well with Terry, Maccabi only threatening on counter attacks, after having a good chance to score early on. Rahman lined up at left back as he has tended to do in the Champions league since his arrival, and got a great assist for Oscars headed goal, but he will most likely return to the bench for Sundays fixture. Branislav Ivanovic returned at right back against Norwich after a three-week injury lay-off so may well start at Tottenham. He had an absolute shocker in this fixture last season, but will no doubt be motivated to make up for that this time. He played well against Norwich, but wasn’t tested too much defensively during the match. Kurt Zouma was very impressive along with John Terry against Norwich, both winning nearly all-aerial duels they contested, and worked well together. Both Cahill and Zouma play well alongside JT, but have also had experience partnering each other this season when Terry was absent, and kept a clean sheet together when we beat Arsenal 2-0.
The midweek win in Tel Aviv was another good performance, three in a row now, and hopefully we have turned the corner. We have been a lot more effective in the final third in these matches, but as Mourinho pointed out after the Norwich win, we could have scored four, and should have scored two. This was also the case away at Stoke, when we didn’t score, and got punished, so we need to take chances and kill matches off. Defensively we have also made strides, and aside from an individual error at Stoke, we could have been talking about three wins on the bounce. Asmir Begovic made an excellent save against Maccabi, and for my money has been excellent for us this season, performing admirably in the absence of Cortois. I don’t see any substance in the criticism some have levelled at him, as he has not been a weak link.
Tottenham looked impressive in despatching West Ham last weekend. It was a complete performance from them, they forced West Ham into going long to Carroll by implementing a high pressing tactic to good effect, and moved the ball quickly and incisively in attacking area’s. It will be key for us to move the ball around them quickly when we play out from the back, and not let our attacking moves be dictated by them. It may be that Fabregas is used from a deeper midfield position, as he was midweek to make this happen. Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele have been the deeper midfield players for Tottenham in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Hazard could get behind them as they push higher if we can move the ball quick enough to him. Dele Alli is suspended, which is good for us as he has been in good form, but Son and Eriksen provide significant dangers.
Whilst we had a long trip to Israel on Tuesday, Tottenham had a longer trip to Azerbaijan on Thursday. A 0-1 win against Qarabag secured their route to the last 32 of the Europa league, but as far as we are concerned, saw a long trip and significant match action for a few players likely to start the early match on Sunday. Lloris, Vertonghen, Dier, Alderweireld and Kane all played the whole match, whilst Eriksen and Son were replaced during the second half. Of their likely starting line up against us only full backs Walker and Rose, along with midfielder Dembele didn’t see any action. Whilst we obviously also played our full strength side, we have had a longer recovery period.
Hopefully our improved form of late is carried into this match, it is often a high scoring fixture, and we cannot afford to be carrying anyone if we are to get something from the match.
If your heading to white hart lane, be aware that extra security measures are in place so don’t leave it too late getting to the ground. Also there won’t be any beer at half time. Hopefully we will have something to raise our glasses to after the match.