Amidst all the turmoil off the pitch, there is still football to be played. For Chelsea, Thursday evenings match with Tottenham will be the first of two London Derbies that the club will face over the festive period. The second being a meeting with neighbors Fulham on Boxing Day.
This match, however, may carry more importance as Tottenham have demonstrated their ability to compete for a top 4 place, once again.
After resisting Chelsea’s attempts to lure Luka Modric away, Spurs have used his creative influence, along with the continued good form of former Chelsea player Scott Parker to take them to 3rd in the Premier League table.
On the other hand, the Andre Villas-Boas revolution at Chelsea has hit a small snag with last week’s draw against Wigan. Prior to that match, the Blues had enjoyed wins over Valencia to qualify for the Champions League Knockout Stages, and handed Manchester City their first league defeat. Against Wigan, the team seemed a bit flat, perhaps fatigued from the emotions of the previous two wins.
A victory against Tottenham will see the Blues leap the North London side to take 3rd position and create a bit of space between themselves and the pursuers for the coveted Champions League spots.
For Chelsea, they will welcome back Ramires from injury. The Brazilian missed the match against Wigan with a leg injury and the Blues could use his energy in midfield. Chelsea also survived a minor injury scare when John Terry limped off during a training session on Monday, but the captain has recovered and is available for the match. However, David Luiz is still carrying a minor knee injury and will miss out.
For Tottenham, Harry Redknapp will have some decisions to make with his team selection. Aaron Lennon left last week’s 1-0 victory over Sunderland with a hamstring problem that will sideline him for a number of weeks. Gareth Bale is also struggling for fitness after spraining his ankle. If both cannot go, the pace of the wings changes with Rafael van der Vaart likely to play on the right for Lennon and Niko Kranjcar likely to get the nod in place of Bale. Emmanuel Adebayor is also carrying a minor foot injury, but is likely to play, though Jermain Defoe is a major doubt. In defence, Younes Kaboul returns from his one-match suspension, but Ledley King is a doubt with his chronic knee problems causing him to not be able to play a number of matches in a short period of time.
No matter how you look at it, this is a big match for both clubs with ambitions to qualify for next year’s Champions League in a season where no fewer than six teams may also stake their claim.