There might not be quite as much on the line as back in May 2016, when Chelsea and Tottenham partook in one of the ugliest clashes in Premier League history commonly referred to as the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Back then, the Blues knew a draw would be enough to stop their bitter rivals from winning the Premier League title, which is exactly what happened in a 2-2 comeback best remembered for Eden Hazard’s late equaliser and a record-breaking number of red cards.
This time around, it’s essentially a shootout for Champions League qualification. A Blues defeat will see Chelsea fall too far away from the rest of the pack to realistically hope for a place in the top four while essentially sealing Tottenham’s place within it, but a Spurs loss will congest the pack and make the final few games of the season incredibly interesting.
As we know though, Champions League qualification is huge for both clubs, as is a rivalry that has steadily moved to the forefront of English football in recent years, and thus it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of the ugly scenes from two years ago repeat themselves in Sunday’s 4pm kickoff – especially with Andre Marriner at the helm.
That’s because the 47-year-old has an exceptionally lenient style compared to the rest of the Premier League’s other referees.
From the 19 to officiate in the top flight this term, he ranks bottom for fouls per game, second-bottom for fouls per tackle and fourth-bottom for yellow cards per game, demonstrating the extent in which he’s allowed physical challenges and has only blown the whistle when he’s felt it’s unquestionably necessary.
That gives Chelsea and Tottenham the freedom to really treat this game like a bitter London derby, which only suits the importance of the occasion and hints at similar scenes from the infamous Battle of Stamford Bridge.
There is a clear downside to that approach though; while many admire the way Marriner likes to let the game flow, he also has a knack of essentially abstaining from big decisions. He’s only given three penalties from 21 games this season, so neither Tottenham nor Chelsea should expect much luck inside the opposition box.
One good omen for the west Londoners though, is that more than half of the fixtures Marriner’s overseen this season have ended in home wins. Add that to the fact Tottenham are still yet to claim a Premier League win at Stamford Bridge, and the signs point to Chelsea picking up all three points this Sunday.