Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte makes an early return to his old stomping ground as his side take on Chelsea in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final clash this evening.
It’s the second successive season that the north London outfit are competing for a place in the final, whilst it offers the Italian a genuine chance at securing his first piece of silverware for the Lilywhites.
Spurs have already seen off a trio of Premier League teams on their route to tonight’s encounter, defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers, Burnley and capital city rivals West Ham United.
Conte will be buoyed by plenty of confidence heading into kick-off with his side unbeaten in the Premier League under his stewardship. Meanwhile, the Champions of Europe have hit a bump in their season, winning just one of their last five.
At the weekend, Spurs moved to within touching distance of the top four after defeating fellow north Londoners Watford by a solitary goal and whilst it was three points, they will need to vastly improve to defeat Chelsea over two legs.
It leaves the 52-year-old with plenty to ponder in terms of team selection, especially as his side faces Morecambe in the FA Cup on Sunday before the return leg against Chelsea and then the small matter of the real north London derby a week Sunday.
One player who struggled to have much influence against the struggling Hornets was right wing-back, Emerson Royal. If he plays the same, then Thomas Tuchel’s frontline could well bully him on their way to success at Stamford Bridge this evening.
‘No-one was allowed more space and time in the final third but the Brazilian put in a succession of poor crosses. You couldn’t escape the feeling that Watford knew he wasn’t much of a threat,’ wrote The Evening Standard’s Dan Kilpatrick in his post-match ratings column, where he graded the Brazilian as Tottenham’s worst player on the day.
Per WhoScored, Chelsea’s favoured wing to attack is his side, with 18% of their total shots coming from the left flank (16% on the right).
He is likely to be up against Marcos Alonso, who has proven to be one of Tuchel’s major outlets this season, having created an average of 1.5 key passes per game, as well as managing 1.3 shots from left wing-back per outing too.
Conte cannot afford the £62k-per-week Emerson to have another mare against his former club and he will need to vastly improve at both ends of the pitch if he’s to help steer Spurs into the final.