Chelsea vs. Tottenham Preview (FA CUP)
Wembley Stadium/April 22, 2017
Up until now, we have had an almost hitch-free season with just two losses prior to the start of April, but we have now recorded two more in the space of just two weeks. So it’s only natural for doubts to begin to set in among fans but I like to think Antonio Conte and the players have it all under control. Our next league assignment is at home to Southampton next Tuesday but before then there’s the small matter of the FA Cup tie with Spurs at Wembley on Saturday. It’s actually a big matter considering it’s the same two teams fighting it out for the league title. Whichever team wins this one will have a considerable psychological advantage over their opponent going into the final six games of the season. I expect Spurs to put up a fight in this match because they have a better chance of winning the FA Cup than they have of winning the league. Mauricio Pochettino is a reasonable man and he knows the league is still Chelsea’s to lose considering the remaining schedule of both teams. Chelsea has just one game left against a team in the top seven, Everton, and four of their remaining fixtures is at Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, Spurs’ remaining home fixtures are against Arsenal and United and even though they are the only team yet to lose a game at home this season, they would be under no illusion as to the difficulty of those games because both Arsenal and United are still in with a chance of qualifying for the CL.
Antonio Conte said post match on Sunday that he took the blame for the way we played at Old Trafford. Perhaps he felt there are certain things he could have done in a different way or even set the team up differently from what we’re used to but the truth of the matter is we lost, playing in my humble opinion our worst game of the season, and we cannot afford to dwell too much on that because we are still well and firmly in the driving seat of the race for the league title. Marcos Alonso’s illness meant we played Azpi on the left side of the defense for the first time since we switched to a back three, but that switch wasn’t as effective as we hoped it would be, so if Alonso is not available on Saturday it’s highly unlikely we would be seeing Dave in that role again. Hopefully the Spaniard is available for selection along with Thibaut Courtois who also missed the United game due to an ankle complaint. I don’t expect that many changes to the team that played at Old Trafford on Sunday but then the one who chooses the team is Antonio Conte so we’d have to wait and see about that. One change I’d like to see though is Fabregas coming into the midfield because I think his passing ability will be key against this Spurs side.
Injuries: Marcos Alonso (illness)-Slight Doubt; Thibaut Courtois (ankle)-Slight Doubt
Last 5 Matches: LWLWW
The last time these two sides met back in January, Mauricio Pochettino decided to mirror our 3-4-3 formation to a devastating effect and his team ran out 2-0 winners. Whether or not he decides to go the same route will depend on the fitness of Victor Wanyama who was brought off the bench against Bournemouth on Saturday for what was his first appearance in close to a month. Back in January, Wanyama partnered Eric Dier in midfield, with Danny Rose and Kyle Walker occupying the wing back positions and the trio of Eriksen, Kane, and Dele Alli completing the lineup. He cannot lineup with the same personnel even if he wants to because Danny Rose isn’t going to be available this time around. Whatever lineup or formation Pochettino chooses to go with it he is undoubetbly looking to make a statement by beating Chelsea, and the lineup wouldn’t diminish the importance of this fixture.
Injuries: Michel Vorm (knee)-Out; Danny Rose (ankle)-Out; Erik Lamela (Hip); Out
Last 5 Matches: WWWWW
3 Matchups to Watch
- Costa vs. Alderweireld: Toby Alderwiereld is not one of those defenders that looks to pic a fight, meaning he’s as efficient as can be. He’s what I like to refer to as a smooth operator. On the other side, Costa needs to focus more on finding the back of the net, because I think his confidence needs it, than picking a fight with every member of the opposition. This is going to be a tough battle but for Costa's sake I don’t expect it to turn physical.
- Luiz vs. Kane: Harry Kane is certainly not back to his best self yet following his recent return from injury but he still managed to help himself to a goal against Bournemouth last time out so Luiz will have to be on his toes and keep his concentration throughout the duration of the match on Saturday. In all honesty, I believe David Luiz needs a little time out after poor form but Antonio Conte is unlikely to make him sit this one out.
- Hazard vs. Walker: It’s not often that Eden Hazard has a quiet game but that certainly was the case at Old Trafford on Sunday. So come Saturday evening he’ll be looking for some redemption. His battles with Kyle Walker over the last few seasons have been fascinating to say the least and this is sure to be another exciting installment. On his day, Hazard is almost unplayable and I expect that to be the case on Saturday because Hazard, along with the rest of the team, should be fired up for this game.
This is the worst possible time to play Spurs with them on a seven-match winning run and us on a poor run of form, but here we are and the stakes could hardly be higher with a spot in the FA Cup final up for grabs. With just four points separating these two on the league table, there will be more at stake than just that ticket to the final as whichever team comes out on top will have momentum going into the final stretch of the season. One thing I know though is we cannot afford another loss immediately after the one at Old Trafford and especially not to Spurs. This is going to be a wonderful game of football for the neutrals but at the end I hope it’d be a Blues’ Day. You’ll hear for me again before our next game on Tuesday but until then remember to, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!