Hopes, dreams, and victory will be on the minds of Tottenham Hotspur players and supporters on Monday night when they visit Stamford Bridge, possibly with their season on the line.
Although the title race could be completely over before Monday night’s kickoff, if the result between Leicester and Manchester United goes Spurs’ way, they will travel to Stamford Bridge knowing that they must win their remaining fixtures and have a bit of help in order to secure their first league title in 55 years.
However, the task of winning to stay in the title race comes face to face with a battle against history. 10 February, 1990 was the last time a Spurs side visited Chelsea and came away victorious, so long ago, in fact, that Gary Lineker can lay claim to being the last Spurs striker to score a match-winning goal at Stamford Bridge.
26 years later, Spurs must overcome a losing streak that is the worst in the top division of English football in order to continue to dream about winning the title for just over half a century.
That task won’t be made easy, however, when facing a Chelsea side coming off one of the best attacking performances of the season last week against Bournemouth. Four goals against the Cherries was enough to savour, but the Chelsea attack looked more potent and cohesive than they have in a very long time, most notably the return of Eden Hazard.
Hazard returned from his injury break looking much sharper than he has since the start of the season and netted his first two goals of this Premier League campaign and showing the attributes that won him last season’s PFA Player of the Year.
The Blues will be further boosted by the return of John Terry from his own injury problems, and Gary Cahill is once again fit after battling an illness that kept him out of last week’s fixture.
For Spurs, adversity couldn’t come at a worse time. While Harry Kane’s 26 goals in all competitions this season has proved that his first year was no fluke, the emergence of Dele Alli has emerged this season as a major contributor and star-in-the-making for Spurs’ campaign.
Alli, though, will miss Monday night’s match through suspension after a three-match ban was handed down after video evidence showed the Englishman punching Claudio Yacob around the midsection in Spurs 1-1 draw with West Brom.
His absence is sure to be noticed, as he’s become integral in the way Spurs play, but manager Mauricio Pochettino does have options. Christian Eriksen has had another good season and is more than capable of playing through the middle behind as striker, and Mousa Dembele has played well this season and could be moved forward. Pochettino also has the option of possibly playing Son Heung-Min as a withdrawn striker in tandem with Kane.
Regardless, Spurs will still have a strong squad and the belief that they can pull of this title charge, but their belief could be rendered moot if Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City go to the Theater of Dreams and leave with all of their title dreams realised.