Chelsea welcome Tottenham to West London on Sunday evening with the Blues’ chances of qualifying for next league’s Champions League hanging in the balance.
This meeting between the two London rivals is just another chapter in the recent history between these two sides, given the stakes for both sides. Defeat for Chelsea would put the Blues eight points behind Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification and would essentially end their hopes of finishing in the top four.
On the other hand, Tottenham have not beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1990 when Spurs won 2-1 and would love to end that record, along with ending Chelsea’s Champions League hopes for next season.
Chelsea’s chances won’t be any easier after a recent injury blight. Thibault Courtois has been nursing a hamstring strain and might not feature against Spurs, and Andreas Christensen is likely to join David Luiz in the stands, leaving Chelsea’s defence a bit short of numbers.
Spurs have their own injury issues, with Harry Kane still nursing an ankle injury suffered three weeks ago. But Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has refused to rule out Kane, but it would hard to imagine Spurs’ leading scorer being fit for a full 90 minutes.
Tactically, there shouldn’t be any surprises for Chelsea. With the injuries at the back and the continued good form of Willian, it should be business as usual with the Blues lining up in a 3-4-3. The only questions will be whether he opts to partner Cesc Fabregas or Tiemoue Bakayoko alongside N’Golo Kante and whether he opts for Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud up front.
Pochettino, on the other hand, has a decision to make. Since the injury to Toby Alderweireld, Spurs have largely stuck to a back four, partnering Davinson Sanchez alongside Jan Vertonghen. But Alderweireld once again fit, Pochettino could opt to return to a back three in order to match up against Chelsea’s back three, which has brought Spurs some success in recent meetings.
Regardless of how the two teams are set out, Chelsea should be the side that shows the most urgency. After all, the Blues are the side with the most to lose if any points are dropped. Even a draw on Sunday puts their hopes for next season’s Champions League in danger, so Conte should send his side out with the intent to attack.
If Chelsea aren’t able to attack and Spurs take the initiative in the match, it could be a very tense atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge.