Chelsea Stand on the Brink of History
At the beginning of the 2016-2017 Premier League season, you could not have predicted that Chelsea would threaten to break Arsenal’s single-season record of 13 consecutive wins that was set during the 2001-2002 season. The Blues can do just that with victory Wednesday night, but to do so, they’ll have to get by a familiar nemesis in Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
History will tell you that White Hart Lane hasn’t always been so kind to the home side in this fixture, with Chelsea supporters going as far as to nickname it “Three Point Lane.” But recent history has reversed that trend, with the Blues having won just once in their last 10 trips to the Lane – that victory coming back on 20 October 2012.
It doesn’t make it any easier given the talent level and the form of this current Spurs side. This is a side that made a serious title run last season, and for 30 minutes gave Chelsea all they could handle in the reverse fixture back on 26 November.
It also doesn’t hurt that Spurs are on their own little mini-run, having won their last four Premier League matches and are coming off back-to-back victories in which they’ve scored four goals in each.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side will almost be at full-strength for this match, with the exception of long-term absentee Erik Lamela. That will be different from the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge where the Argentine was a bit limited in his team selection.
Back in November, injuries to Toby Alderweireld and Ben Davies, as well as a suspension for Danny Rose, meant that the Spurs boss fielded a makeshift defence with Kevin Wimmer deputising as a left back.
This time, unless he chooses a change of tactic, he’ll likely field his normal back line of Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, Alderweireld, and Rose.
The big worry for Chelsea, aside from the press, will be the renewed form of Dele Alli and Harry Kane. Both players scored in Spurs’ 4-1 win over Watford. Kane has scored in each of Spurs’ last two victories, while in those same matches, Alli has netted a brace in each.
But for Antonio Conte, his Chelsea side haven’t exactly been lacking for goals either. The Blues are coming off of their own 4-2 victory over Stoke City, courtesy of a Willian brace, and have scored 32 goals during this 13-match winning run.
Part of the Blues’ success is the scintillating form of Diego Costa, who leads the Premier League with 14 goals so far this season, while also chipping in with 5 assists to tie him with Cesc Fabregas and Pedro for second place on the team.
More importantly for the Blues, Conte also has a his full squad at his disposal, as Nemanja Matic and David Luiz both avoided a booking against Stoke City which would have triggered an automatic one-match suspension. Pedro also returns to the squad from his own one-match suspension due to yellow cards, while Marcos Alonso is available for selection despite appearing to take a knock in the first half against Stoke.
Aside from tying the record for most consecutive wins in a season, the festive period has been kind to Chelsea. Points dropped by Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City over the past four days means that victory isn’t a necessity in order for the West London side to maintain their stranglehold at the top of the table. A draw at White Hart Lane will be good enough for Chelsea to maintain their six-point lead over second-place Liverpool.
However, a victory would open up a gap and certainly put more pressure on their title rivals, as Chelsea would have an eight-point gap over Liverpool in second place, and a 13-point gap on Spurs and Manchester United in fifth and sixth place respectively.
Despite it being just the start of January, this could be the first and most decisive of the title deciders to come in 2017. A Chelsea win opens up a rather sizable gap and makes it more ominous that another title might arrive at Stamford Bridge, while Chelsea’s rivals and the neutrals would quite like a Tottenham victory as it would keep the Blues from running away with the title and perhaps make the title race a bit more interesting as the second half of the season begins.