Chelsea travel to White Hart on New Year’s Day looking to maintain their 3 point lead at the top of the table with a win over Tottenham Hotspur. The festive period has so far seen Chelsea go unbeaten with wins over Stoke City and West ham but after the draw with Southampton Mourinho’s men will be looking another victory.
Spurs will be looking for revenge after the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge saw Chelsea overcome a poor first 15 minutes to defeat their London rivals with relative ease. Eden hazard, Didier Drogba and Loic Remy were the scorers in a 3-0 triumph. Tottenham appear to have turned a corner since then however and this time round should provide a much tougher test for the Blues throghout the whole 90 minutes.
You have to go back to as far as 2010 to find the last time Spurs beat Chelsea in any competition, with Chelsea avoiding defeat in the 10 meetings since between the two. Victories over Everton, Leicester, Swansea recently and a draw with Manchester United in their last game will have given Spurs a new found confidence though and hope they can get a result on Thursday.
It’s hoped Oscar will be available for selection after missing the clash at Southampton through illness. If so then Mourinho would be expected to replace him with Mikel and allow Fabregas to return to the deeper role he’s been employed in throughout the majority of the campaign so far, whilst Oscar sits behind the striker. As for who starts upfront for Chelsea, Diego Costa might just be the man again given that the next league fixture isn’t until the 10th after Tottenham and so will have ample time for a rest then.
Cesar Azpilicueta should come back into the side at left back after Felipe Luis’ struggled to merit another start with his performance at Southampton and the same could be said for Andre Schurrle, who after being hauled off at half time can expect to be replaced with Willian.
As for Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino may not be keen to change the side too much after their draw with Manchester United but Kyle Walker will be hoping to come back into the starting 11 at right back which would put either Federico Fazio or Vlad Chiriches’ place at risk. Andros Townsend could make way for Erik Lamela on the right wing whilst Harry Kane will retain his position as striker. Kane remains Spurs’ biggest goal threat and his work rate should keep John Terry and Gary Cahill busy, but they’ve proved already this season they’re more than up to the challenge posed.
Eden Hazard has been in exceptional form over the festive period and his contribution will be as crucial as ever if Chelsea are to get all three points. Goals and have assists have started to come by with increasing consistency for the Belgian and his overall influence on games is beginning to swing ties in Chelsea’s favour. Chiriches or Walker will have a tough job on their hands dealing with Hazard who’s going from strength to strength with each game.
Chelsea’s away form in the past 4 has seen them average 1.25 points per game, which is in contrast to the first 6 away games of the season which yielded an average 2.3 points. A draw at Sunderland preceded the only league defeat of the season at Newcastle, a resounding win at Stoke was much needed though the point at St. Mary’s could easily have seen Chelsea take all 3. Cesc Fabregas should have been awarded a penalty after being tripped but was instead booked, leaving Jose Mourinho unhappy to say the least.
Tottenham still appear to be struggling at home however and their away performances have been far more convincing than those at White Hart Lane. West Brom, Stoke and Newcastle have all come away with 3 points away to Spurs this season and so there’s no reason why Chelsea can’t do the same. It’s important they do too as Manchester City are beginning to heap pressure on the Blues despite their slip up to Burnley- their form over the past month or so has seen the title race become well and truly alive. Should Chelsea play with the same control and measure that’s been displayed so often this season you’d imagine they’d have too much for a Tottenham side who have stuttered at home, but London derbies are rarely straightforward.
Contribution by Ryan Prendeville