Chelsea host Tottenham in the Premier League’s most significant encounter of the weekend, with just one place separating the London rivals in the table. The Blues know they need a win to keep their hopes of Champions League qualification alive, currently five points behind the fourth-placed visitors as we enter the final stretch of the Premier League season.
Antonio Conte will need his entire side to be in tune with each other to beat a more than competent Tottenham team that have improved with every season under Mauricio Pochettino. But when there’s so little to choose between two top-quality opponents, games are often decided by the players who decide to take it by the scruff of the neck. So, who will be Chelsea’s most influential player on Sunday? Football FanCast’s writers have their say….
“N’Golo Kante will be vital because Mousa Dembele has dominated in midfield in many of Spurs’ big games this season. If the Belgian does so again here, then Spurs will have a great chance of getting on top in the game, but I don’t think Kante will let him. The Frenchman has adapted well to Champions League football and the way he’s made that jump to the next level there has convinced me he can live with Dembele. That will help Chelsea get on the front foot.”
“Big games call for big players. In the absence of Harry Kane, Spurs will be without their biggest. That means there will be a different threat, of course, but Chelsea’s defenders will be much more confident.
“Chelsea aren’t without their own star, however. Keeping Spurs out might be easier for the Blues than it might have been otherwise, but Eden Hazard will have to provide the firepower at the other end because, realistically, only a win will do.”
“Much of Willian’s Chelsea career has been in Hazard’s shadow but it’s the Brazilian who has made the more telling contributions in recent weeks, bagging five goals and one assist in his last seven appearances for the Blues. He also provided an assist against Germany on Tuesday night, further highlighting how the 29-year-old is enjoying such a rich vein of form right now.
“A big part of that is how formidable an asset the attacking midfielder is on the counter-attack, which only becomes of even greater significance in the big games – tellingly, two of his five strikes came against Barcelona and Manchester United. Add in the fact Willian always plays well against Spurs, the club he famously almost signed for instead of Chelsea back in 2013, and we should see another big performance from the South American.”