Spurs vs Chelsea Preview – The Battle For London
November 23, 2018
It can be hard to keep track of the rivalries that dominate London football. It doesn’t matter if you’re red, blue or white, support any of those colours in England’s capital and you’re automatically made an enemy of all the others. The good thing is that no matter who’s playing, London derbies are almost guaranteed to be absolute corkers. This weekend sees one of the best, Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur.
There’s plenty of talking points in this matchup, from team news to current form and historic clashes. So, without further ado, let’s take a little look into what could be one of the games of the season.
The Two Teams
In terms of club management, you couldn’t get two sides more different. This summer, Spurs became the first team in the Premier League era to not make a single transfer in the summer window. This inaction in the market, coupled with the problems at the new White Hart Lane, has prompted an outcry from fans. Much criticism has been directed towards chairman Daniel Levy, as many think he is far more concerned about the business side of things rather than the football. While Poch has done well with what he has, there is a feeling that if Spurs invested in more quality players, they might have even greater success.
It has to be said that Pochettino has done a stellar job with Spurs over the years, especially when you take into account their spending compared to rest of the league. He hasn’t really bought any spectacular, game-changing signings instead choosing to develop the talents that are already there and instil in them his footballing philosophy. The development of players like Kane, Ali and Tripper has been nothing sort of sensational and now those three find themselves as some of the most important names in the national set-up. This stability has been built up over a number of years and might be Spurs’ biggest asset.
Chelsea meanwhile have a full-scale rebuilding job on their hands. It’s only two years since they last won the league, but the decline since then has been drastic. The loss of players like Matic to direct rivals coupled with a few ineffective replacements meant they just managed to scrape through into the Europa League. Things changed over the summer though. While the rest of the nation was enjoying the sun, booze and brief glory, the Blue side of London was making waves.
It started with the appointment of Maurizio Sarri who had been managing Napoli at the time. Sarri has slowly built a reputation for his fast-paced, attacking style of play and for taking his side to the top of Italian football. During that time, he garnered praise from pros and fans alike and even had a mini bromance going with Pep Guardiola when Napoli faced his high-flying City team last year.
That relationship might have soured a little with the transfer of midfield maestro Jorginho to Chelsea. The Napoli man was heavily touted to move to City during the summer, with various publications proclaiming the deal done more than once. It wasn’t to be though, with Jorginho instead deciding to move to the Blues with his former manager. What’s more, Chelsea also signed Guardiola’s reported backup option Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid on loan for the season. This gave a much-needed invigoration to a midfield that often looked off the pace last season.
Sarri hasn’t been in the job long, but we’re already seeing this Chelsea side play with a panache that’s been missing from the Bridge for some years. That’s not to say they haven’t been successful in periods, both Mourinho and Antonio Conte won the league with decidedly defensive set up, but under Sarri they’ve started to play in a way that’s both effective and attractive. The Blues are starting to reap the rewards too, they’re the only side in Europe’s top five leagues to stay unbeaten in all competitions.
Tottenham might be the more stable of the two clubs, but Chelsea now are a completely different proposition to the side that disappointed last season
How will the teams line-up?
Tottenham have a few fitness problems to contend with. Defender Davinson Sanchez will have to undergo a late fitness test due to a hamstring problem. Kieran Trippier is also a doubt for the tie while Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele are confirmed absentees. Without the protection of Dembele in front of the back four and potentially having three members of that defence out, Spurs could find themselves exposed to what is deadly Chelsea attacking threat.
Poch already knows what his best eleven is so there shouldn’t be many surprises in the line-up outside of the fitness problems. While Chelsea are playing well, Spurs away presents a significant challenge for them. Tottenham have chemistry, top class players and a system which every single one of them knows like the back of their hand. Kane will obviously be the first name on the team sheet and will probably be joined by Son, Ali and Erikson in the attack. Without Dembele, Dier will likely be called upon to occupy the holding midfield, while Winks may be given a chance to show his worth as well. In defence, Alderweireld is certain to start, while Davies and Aurier are pretty safe bets as well. In goal, there’s only one option for Spurs; captain Hugo Lloris.
Sarri might have a few more decisions to make than his opposite number, with a number of fringe players having some excellent performances in recent weeks. Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, in particular, have been in stellar form, prompting the fans to beg for their inclusion in the starting line-up. He also has a dilemma up front, with Morata not looking at his best French giant Olivier Giroud might be called upon in his place. The backline has been pretty consistent for the Blues, so expect to see starts for Alonso, Azpilicueta, Luiz and Rudiger. Kepa the keeper will probably be called upon in goal.
Kovacic appeared to suffer an injury during the international break and is a doubt for the fixture. While Chelsea fans will be lamenting the loss of such a talented player, it does open the door for forgotten man Cesc Fabregas. The Spanish playmaker hasn’t really featured under Sarri, with the manager preferring Jorginho to be the man pulling all the strings. If Kovacic is injured though, Fabregas could be the player to fill in. He’s still done well in the limited appearances he’s made this season, especially in the League cup fixtures against Liverpool and Derby where he was named man of the match in both. The only other concern for Chelsea is youngster Ethan Ampadu, who probably wouldn’t have been included in the squad anyway.
This fixture has seen some world class matches over the years, filled with controversy, emotion and plenty of goals. Picking the best of the lot is a hard task, but not impossible, so here’s my top 5 meeting between the two London giants.
April 19th 1975 – White Hart Lane 2-0
You can’t look at the history of the two clubs without examining the fixture that probably confirmed the hatred between them. The 1974-75 season saw them both stuck in a relegation battle. With it getting to the end of the season, Tottenham were in the relegation zone while Chelsea were only one point ahead. There were only three games left, so this was the most important fixture of the season for either side. Tottenham ended winning 2-0, pushing themselves to safety at Chelsea’s expense. The Blues were unable to win either of their remaining fixtures and were sent down Tottenham survived by a single point.
19 March 2008 – White Hart Lane 4-4
As last-gasp equalisers go, you can’t get much more important than the derby and that’s exactly what happened in this fixture. Chelsea took an early lead in the third minute from a Drogba header but Spurs drew level soon after through Jonathon Woodgate. Goals from Joe Cole and Michael Essien looked to have sealed the points for the Blues but were pegged back by strikes from Berbatov and Huddlestone. Cole scored his second and what looked like the winner. Then, two minutes from time, Robbie Keane guided a wonderful 20-yard curler into the corner to snatch a point for Spurs.
1 January 2015 – White Hart Lane 5-3
A result that stunned both sets of fans, this fixture saw Chelsea surrender their top spot position at the time. Harry Kane lead Spurs to an inspired win, bagging himself a brace in the process, though it was the Blues who struck first through a Diego Costa tap-in. Kane then equalised from 20-yards before Danny Rose finished a rebound to put them ahead. Andros Townsend then converted a penalty, but Eden Hazard drilled a low shot to give the Blues some hope. Chadli quickly quashed this though after his deflected shot went in, making Terry’s late effort little more than a consolation.
1 March 2015 – Wembley 2-0 Chelsea
The two sides met in the league cup final of 2015. Both teams went in desperate for the win. For Spurs, it was a chance to win their first bit of silverware for years but if Chelsea won, they’d overtake Spurs in terms of trophies won. In the end, it was the blues that emerged victorious thanks to goals from Diego Costa and John Terry.
2 May 2016 – Stamford Bridge 2-2
This fixture took place in what is perhaps the most shocking season of English top-flight football there’s ever been. It was the business end of the season and Leicester City were inexplicably one win away from their first Premier League title. The win needed to come from Chelsea, otherwise there was still a slim chance Spurs could still win it. It was the time in white that were winning at halftime thanks to goals from Kane and Son Heung-min. Chelsea battled back though, scoring through Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard. There were some ugly scenes in this match too, with Spurs receiving a record nine yellow cards to Chelsea’s three. Both teams were reprimanded by the FA for their conduct.
It’s hard to call a winner here. Both teams have quality players and men at the helm who know how to set up a team. Pochettino’s side may have the home advantage, but Chelsea’s form has been much better over the course of the season and, man for man, they probably have the better side. That’s why I’m predicting a Chelsea win, though not by much. Whatever the result, I’m sure we’re in for a hotly contested match.
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Cyrus has been writing about sports and many other topics for major publications over the past five years. Now working in digital marketing, he spends his days arguing over football and dreaming of his beloved Manchester City winning the champions league.