Tottenham’s clash with Chelsea at Wembley represents the headline act in the Premier League this weekend. The two London rivals have essentially decided the last three title races, Chelsea winning two of them, so Sunday’s contest could have a massive impact on who walks away with the crown this season.
The Blues will have to bounce back from a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Burnley last weekend, whereas Tottenham face the test of proving they can settle into their temporary new home, with their poor record at Wembley over the last few years another major talking point heading into the 4pm kickoff.
So what’s the likeliest outcome, what will be on the minds of the managers and how will the match be decided? This week’s experts, Chelsea FanCast’s David Chidgey and Snack Media’s very own Spurs-supporting Martin Crawford, have their say…
What changes need to be made from last week’s starting XI or does Pochettino stick with the side that won 2-0?
MC: I am a big believer that you always keep a winning side; however, given the level of opposition we are facing on Sunday I would make a fair few changes, albeit retaining the 4-2-3-1 formation that we setup with at St James.
Whilst Kyle Walker-Peters had an impressive debut, I am slightly concerned about him starting week-in, week-out at present; therefore I would favour a move to play Eric Dier at right-back and bring Victor Wanyama back alongside Mousa Dembele. I would restore Heung-Min Son to the starting XI at the expense of Moussa Sissoko who continues to disappoint.
After last Saturday’s unexpected defeat, what’s the biggest positive Chelsea can take into this game?
DG: The fight they showed with ten and then nine men playing against both Burnley and the referee was both encouraging and pleasing. They are clearly playing for each other, the manager and the supporters in spite of all of the chaos going on at the moment. What more can you ask for.
Also, Alvaro Morata looks like a class striker and a different kind of front-man to Diego Costa – I think he’ll do very well for Chelsea once Antonio Conte deems him fit enough. Antonio Rudiger also impressed on his debut as did Andreas Christensen of whom much is hoped and expected. Willian looked good too. On another day we would have romped that match, as you would expect, and no one would be looking at us like a soap opera this week.
My suspicions about Spurs playing at Wembley follow on from their dismal performances in the Champions League last year. They will be nervous, playing in unfamiliar surroundings and Chelsea’s track record at Wembley and against Spurs is very good.
The key factor though is that Wembley may not suit Spurs’ high-energy pressing game – can they sustain that for 90 minutes on a pitch the size of Wembley? They couldn’t when we beat them in the FA Cup semi-final last year.
Who do you see as the opposition’s biggest threat?
MC: Every Chelsea fan will tell you that this is their biggest game of the season in terms of a derby and that generally resonates amongst the players on the pitch, who go the extra mile for the Blues in these fixtures. Personally I have a feeling that Hazard will be in the squad at the weekend but the definite threat will come from Willian who always seems to do well against Tottenham.
I heard rumours that David Luiz maybe drafted into midfield which would be an added bonus in my view as I believe he is the only Chelsea defender capable of dealing with the aerial threat that Harry Kane and Dele Alli pose in the attacking 3rd.
DG: Obviously Harry Kane and Dele Alli spring to mind immediately – they are very good players. Someone needs to pick up Alli’s movement and runs and for God’s sake don’t give him any free headers in the box! When Chelsea lost at White Hart Lane last season Spurs dominated and bossed us in midfield, numerically and in terms of energy.
I worry that Spurs might do that again and dominate the game. Having Fabregas suspended may actually prove to be a good thing for Chelsea, as we will either play David Luiz there if Conte goes the pragmatic and defensive route or Charly Musonda if he’s feeling more adventurous. Either way we need players who can tackle, chase down and have bags of energy to match Spurs. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses need to do a shift in midfield to help out both the defence and the engine room.
How much will Wembley be a factor on Sunday?
MC: The problem that Tottenham face at Wembley is that the opposition are extra motivated to play there – that makes it equally difficult for us. Furthermore, this is a home from home for Chelsea in recent games, who therefore are well versed on the pitch and surrounds, and that will make things extra hard. Personally I think this game is a defining one for the club and I truly believe that victory against Chelsea will give us a psychological boost and the squad extreme confidence for the rest of the season.
What Tottenham weaknesses can Chelsea expose?
DG: I think Hugo Lloris can be exposed as he is prone to mistakes. Although Ben Davies and Kyle Walker-Peters both had a good game against Newcastle, their inexperience may be exploited if Alonso, Moses, Willian and hopefully Pedro can hit Spurs on the counter.
Let’s hear your score predictions lads.
DG: With the state we are in at the moment and knowing the Chelsea of old, it would not surprise me if we beat Spurs comfortably or vice versa. However, I think that this is a match that neither team will want to lose and at this stage of the season it is not a must win, so I will err on the side of caution and say it could well be a scrappy 1-1 or 2-2 draw. But obviously I’d be much happier with dishing out a hammering to Spurs to ruin their first Premier League match at Wembley. I can’t stand the thought of a Spurs DVD this early in the season.
MC: The problem with these games against Chelsea is that they can be a tight cagey affairs, or high scoring defeats – not the usual stuff you expect from derby games. I actually think the defeat against Burnley will count against us as Conte’s team will have extra motivation and need a win, as a loss will see them 6 points behind us in the table. My heart and head are never in sync when it comes to Chelsea games but something tells me this is going to be a high scoring 3-3 draw.