Match Preview: Tottenham vs. Chelsea #TOTCHE
White Hart Lane | January 4th, 2017
The first Chelsea game of the calendar year is upon us and let me tell you, it does not get much bigger than this. There is so much at stake this game: The implications upon the standings, the chance for Chelsea to set a Premier League record, and of course bragging rights over London rivals. Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino will compete with tactics and strategy, while the players will compete with their blood and sweat. This is the kind of game that players need no extra motivation for, especially with the history these two teams have. The world is set for a mid week clash at White Hart Lane, and this preview will help you get set with what you need to know about the game.
Arsenal set the record of 13 wins in a row following the end of their 2001-2002 campaign. Chelsea have now matched that, and have a chance of besting it on Wednesday. And upon further reflection, there really could not be a better way to start 2017. Surpassing a London rival’s Premier League record by beating another London rival, at the same time cementing our lead at the top of the standings. A win seems so close and tantalizing for Chelsea fans, the team itself must be feeling the same way.
The Blues go into this game with no first team injury concerns or suspensions. With that being said, there are two spots in the lineup that may give Conte some questions over who to start. The first is the central midfield role beside Kante. Fabregas was given the start last against Stoke. It may have been the gaffer wanted offensive creativity in that matchup, but it may also be protecting Matic from a fifth yellow card. If it is the latter, we can expect Nemanja to slot back in to the starting lineup. The other positional battle to watch is between Willian and Pedro for that third attacker role. Pedro missed last game with a suspension and Willian promptly scored a brace, including the game winning goal. The Brazilian seems to have recovered his form following his mother’s passing, and if recent form is to be valued it may be hard to displace him from the starting lineup. Then again if performance over the course of the season is valued it should be Pedro starting, making this an intriguing position to watch and see who Conte plays.
Injuries: Mikel (out). Terry (unlikely). Alonso (probable).
While Chelsea are hogging the headlines with a 13-game winning streak, Spurs have quietly put together a 4-game winning streak of their own, outscoring opponents 13-3 in the process. Even more impressive has been their play at their home stadium this year. Tottenham haven’t lost a single Premier League game at White Hart Lane this year. Their only losses there have been in the Champions League, the last one being November 2 against Bayer Leverkusen. If the fact that they will be playing Chelsea wasn’t motivation enough for them, a win for them would be massive as it would likely vault them into the top 4. Long story short, if there was any team right now capable of ending Chelsea’s streak, it would be Tottenham.
A large reason for the recent success that Tottenham have had is the play of Harry Kane and Dele Alli. The England Internationals have combined for an astounding 8 goals in the past 3 games, clearly driving the Spurs attack. The midfield and defence are high quality as well, with Erikson, Son, Wanyama, Rose, Walker, Vertonghen, and Alderweireld all available and expected to play. And of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention goal keeper Hugo Lloris, who remains one of England’s best. Aside from Erik Lamela, Spurs boast all their key players and continue to be a very strong team, one that is itching to jump into the top 4. As much as I hate to say it, Tottenham are a strong bet to at least draw with Chelsea, therefore ending the winning streak.
Injuries: McGee, Lamela (out).
Three Matchups to Watch
- Kante vs Alli: Oh, what a matchup this will be. One of the league’s best young midfield talents against the league’s best shutdown defensive midfielder. In the reverse matchup at Stamford Bridge, it was Kante who managed to shut Alli down and nullify him for most of the game. But it’s a brand new day and a brand new match on Wednesday, and the battle between these two to control the middle of the pitch will be colossal.
- Moses vs Eriksen: Just a disclaimer, this matchup may not happen. Pochettino has been known to experiment with his players a bit, and Eriksen has played the number 10 role, the wing, and striker this season. If he does play wing like I think he will, then Moses will be in for a tough challenge. Eriksen is a dynamic and creative player, a tough matchup for any defender in the league. The fact that Victor isn’t a natural defender will make it more tough for him. However, he has proven this season that he can be a shut down player when he needs to be, Chelsea will hope that remains the case here.
- Hazard vs Walker: Make no mistake about it, Kyle Walker has been the best right-back in the Premier League over the past few seasons. Chelsea fans got a first hand look at him in the reverse matchup, when he shut Hazard down and even gave Alonso headaches on the offensive side of the ball. He was rested for Spurs last match as well, meaning fatigue will not be a problem for him. With that being said, Hazard has improved the longer the season goes on, and enters on great form. There is no mistaking how important the Belgian is to Chelsea, and if he is on point then Walker may have too much on his plate to handle.
- When it comes to these two teams, defence is the name of the game. Chelsea have the best defensive record in the Premier League, having only conceded 13 goals all season. The second best defensive team? Tottenham, who have only conceded one more with 14. This game has all the hallmarks of a low scoring affair.
- Chelsea have dominated recent games between the two. Their 5-3 loss last year was their only loss to Tottenham in all competitions since 2010. The Blues will look to keep that stat intact.