In the Premier League’s headline encounter this weekend, Tottenham Hotspur host Chelsea at Wembley.
Once upon a time, this London derby was essentially a foregone conclusion – Spurs didn’t actually beat the Blues in the Premier League until 2006 – but in recent years, it has suddenly become one of the most significant and most heated rivalries in English football, essentially deciding the last three Premier League titles.
The bitterness between both clubs spans far longer than simply 2014, but how has this fixture moved to the forefront of the English game? We take a look at 10 dramatic moments that have pushed the rivalry to boiling point.
By the time Chelsea rocked up at White Hart Lane in 1997, Tottenham fans already knew the score. The Blues had claimed four wins and six draws from their previous ten meetings with spurs in the Premier League, conceding more than two goals on just two occasions.
But Chelsea’s display that afternoon was something else altogether – a 6-1 romping in Tottenham’s manor, a humiliating result that helped compound Spurs to their second-worst finish of the Premier League era – 14th place. Goals were provided by Tore Andre Flo, bagging a hat-trick, Roberto Di Matteo, Dan Petrescu and perhaps most embarrassingly, a certain Mark Nicholls.
Plenty of players have moved between both clubs down the years, but few have openly defied their former employers with the riot-inducing angst of Gus Poyet.
If watching a fan favourite joining a London rival irked some Chelsea supporters, what the Uruguayan did next truly shocked them. In the second meeting between the two sides since the South American’s departure, Chelsea found themselves on the receiving end of a 5-1 drubbing in the League Cup, with Poyet pulling many of the strings in midfield. As he was subbed off in the 83rd minute, Poyet turned to the away Chelsea support, bowed his head a kissed the Tottenham badge.
It’s become the trend for footballers not to celebrate goals against their former clubs; Poyet didn’t even bother scoring before trying to wind up the fans who once chanted his name.
No player has scored more goals in this fixture throughout Premier League history than Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, netting ten from eight outings. And no performance was more dominant than in a 4-0 romping over the Lilywhites at Stamford Bridge, during which the Dutchman popped up with a perfect hat-trick.
An incredible right-footed curler and an equally incredible left-footed curler sandwiched a header from point-blank range. Whilst there may have been no grievous subplot to Hasselbaink’s striker masterclass, it certainly reminded Spurs of their status as underdogs in the rivalry.
Jose Mourinho’s arrival in summer 2004 instantly transformed Chelsea into English football’s most dominant force, lapping up two consecutive Premier League titles in machine-like fashion.
But the bubble started to burst during the 2006/07 season and it was Tottenham who laid one of the killer blows to the Portuguese’s waning reign.
Goals from Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon provided Spurs’ first ever Premier League victory over their bitter rivals, which also served as Mourinho’s first ever defeat in a London derby. Chelsea went on to miss out on the title that season to Manchester United and just a handful of games into the following campaign, Mourinho was sacked
While Tottenham would have to wait another three years for their next Premier League win over the Blues, a thrilling 4-4 draw at White Hart Lane the year prior at least provided some respite from a string of five defeats in six at the hands of Chelsea.
The lead had already changed hands four times when Spurs found themselves chasing down a deficit with just minutes remaining on the clock. But a hopeful lump forward broke the deadlock, the ball finding its way to Robbie Keane who unleashed an unstoppable pile-driver from the edge of the box.
That kickstarted a run of three games undefeated against the west Londoners, heralding hints of the rivalry beginning to balance out.
By 2012, the bad blood between Chelsea and Tottenham had begun to spill into the boardrooms. Chelsea were desperate to get their hands on Spurs’ talismanic playmaker Luka Modric but Daniel Levy continuously refused to sanction a move, eventually selling the Croatian midfielder to Real Madrid in a £30million deal – a figure £10million less than Chelsea’s offer.
The summer after, however, the Blues got their own back; Brazil international Willian was taking a medical at White Hart Lane when Chelsea suddenly muscled in on the deal by agreeing a higher fee with Anzhi – at that time owned by one of Roman Abramovich’s old cronies. The legend goes that Willian completed his medical before getting a cab straight to west London.
While the winger’s Chelsea career has produced two Premier League titles, Tottenham instead signed Erik Lamela. Awkward.
“It hurts me and I won’t forget about this when we hit the motorway, but some might. There’s a lack of character, too many of them are too nice to each other and you need to show a bit more guts.
“The club talks about fourth – wake up. You won’t finish in the top four if you don’t beat top teams. You’re miles away unless you beat the top teams. We owe the fans a performance. We let them down again on the big occasion.”
They often say the darkest hours are before the dawn and Tottenham’s 4-0 battering at Stamford Bridge in 2014 provides the perfect case in point. Having lost patience with Andre Villas-Boas after a 5-0 defeat to Liverpool, heavy losses in big games had become a recurring trend of Tottenham’s season as they sought life after Gareth Bale.
So when Spurs conceded four goals in the final 35 minutes against Chelsea, interim manager Tim Sherwood felt compelled to go public with his disappointment, accusing Tottenham of capitulation and lacking the required character and guts in an incredibly frank post-match interview.
Sherwood’s comments divided opinion but little did he know that his successor in the hot seat, Mauricio Pochettino, would soon end the days of Tottenham’s soft underbelly.
It was arguably the first performance that announced Tottenham as a genuine threat to the Premier League’s top order, an unexpected demolition job of firm title favourites Chelsea on New Year’s Day 2015 – Harry Kane, at that point a relatively unknown entity who certainly didn’t convince everybody, netting an iconic brace at White Hart Lane.
It wasn’t enough to stop Chelsea clinching the title by a clear margin that season, or to secure Tottenham a top four finish. But from that moment on, both in the context of the rivalry and the Premier League, Spurs have been a completely different side, universally feared for their energy, aggression and attacking prowess. Kane hasn’t looked back either.
It was one of the most foul-tempered games in Premier League history and produced a record-breaking nine yellow cards. Understandably so; everything was on the line when second-placed Tottenham travelled to Stamford Bridge in 2016, knowing they needed a win to have any hope of stopping Leicester City complete the most miraculous underdog story of all time.
Chelsea, meanwhile, had capitulated spectacularly and entered the fixture in ninth place. They knew the most they could get out of the season was ensuring Tottenham didn’t win the title which, in the most dramatic circumstances possible, is exactly what they did.
Tottenham took a two-goal lead in the first half through Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, but Chelsea hit back at the start of the second as Gary Cahill found the net.
Then, just seven minutes from time, Eden Hazard, who had been a shadow of himself all season, dazzled his way through the centre of the pitch, linking up with Diego Costa before placing an unforgettable curler in the top right corner.
Incredible, drunken scenes in Leicester ensued as Spurs were forced to accept their fate at the hands of their London rivals.
During 2016/17, Tottenham and Chelsea were the top two sides in English football, finishing second and first in the Premier League respectively.
After a 13-game winning streak, however, which Tottenham ended, their title race was very much a cold war, Chelsea always a handful of points and both top flight fixtures between the two crown chasers already played. An FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, however, produced the ultimate skirmish the title race couldn’t provide. In a relentless encounter under the beating sun, Tottenham came from behind to draw level twice through Dele Alli.
But it was Chelsea who upped their game in the closing stages; Hazard put the Blues ahead before Nemanja Matic unleashed one of the new Wembley’s greatest ever strikes to make it 4-2. Chelsea would eventually lose in the final to Arsenal, but the dramatic win knocked the stuffing out of Spurs – two games later, a 1-0 defeat to West Ham ended their title hopes once again.