The top two in the Premier League meet at Wembley for a place in the FA Cup final. More than that, the winner has the chance of the league and cup double, following Chelsea’s mauling at Old Trafford last weekend. Can Spurs take advantage?
Mauricio Pochettino played down his side’s tag as favourites, claiming that while Chelsea deserved the sobriquet, Spurs were the hungrier of the two clubs for success. After last season’s collapse in the title race, the north London club have come back stronger and hang onto the Blues coattails.
Despite closing the gap to the top, the FA Cup is still Tottenham’s best chance of silverware this season.
It’s set Wembley up for a pulsating clash and one which could shape the end of the English season. Will another Chelsea defeat signal a late season tumble and send a London Premier League title north of the River Thames for the first time in decades?
The two sides provided fantastic entertainment in their league clashes this season, with each winning the home game and goals have not been in short supply in the past few years when they have met.
Can they produce one again, on the biggest stage? No pressure…
Antonio Conte faces real injury problems ahead of this tie. Although Thibault Courtois and Marcos Alonso are expected to return, it is by no means certain that they will. Gary Cahill has caught the same bug which has afflicted Diego Costa and Victor Moses, with the centre back the biggest doubt.
Chelsea struggled last week without Alonso, and the unsettling effect it had on the line-up, as well as Courtois. Asmir Begovic is a good ‘keeper but Courtois has the presence to cause doubts in striker’s minds which when facing an in-form Harry Kane and Dele Alli is a useful attribute.
The biggest issue for Conte is to reignite his strikeforce. He coaxed Cesc Fabregas back to his peak form, as well as Diego Costa to the same heights before Christmas. Since then, the Brazilian-born Spanish international has struggled for consistency, not scoring in his last four, with 1 goal in the last six.
While two defeats in four games hints at a drop in form, the reality is that it’s two since Spurs won comprehensively at White Hart Lane on 4th January, sixteen games ago. Four points clear at the top of the Premier League, Chelsea’s season is impressive given the shambles into which they descended in 2015/16.
Conte has a personal ambition to satisfy as well. The Italian has never won a domestic or European cup as a manager. If he is going to break that duck, there is surely no better competition than the FA Cup?
Playing at Wembley ought to be a familiar experience for Tottenham this season. Not that they have good memories of their Champions League experiences. The decision to play home ties at the national stadium was an unmitigated disaster, resulting in a hugely embarrassing group stage exit. Time for the Lilywhites to put that record right for their long-suffering supporters.
Mauricio Pochettino is without Danny Rose, Harry Winks and Erik Lamela while Michel Vorm is a doubt. In other words, it’s pretty much his strongest line-up at kick-off with only Rose being the ‘big miss’. Not that Ben Davies has shown any signs of being found wanting at the moment. The young defender has slotted into the left wing-back role, providing good width and support for the attack.
Tottenham are in scintillating form. Ten unbeaten, scoring thirty-three goals in the process with four clean sheets in the last six games. Whereas this time last season they collapsed, Spurs are looking to surge through to the finish and it’s impossible to write off their chances of the double.
Central to that has been the headline talents of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, who along with Christian Eriksen form English football’s most devastating strike force. However, the back three of Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Dier are equally as impressive, particularly after the injury struggles the two Belgians suffered.
It was staggering that Vertonghen wasn’t nominated for Player of the Year – or Alli for that matter – but to exclude Alderweireld from the PFA Team of the Season was simply baffling. Medals will no doubt soothe any pain they felt.
While Tottenham have flattered to deceive in the past – and it’s been twenty-six years since they lifted the FA Cup – there is a feeling that this squad is the ‘real deal’. Now is the time to prove it.
FORM (Last six games)
Chelsea - WWLWWL
Tottenham Hotspur - WWWWWW
- Chelsea are unbeaten in 51 of their last 57 FA Cup ties.
- The two sides have met four times at Wembley, both winning two games each.
- Four of the last five FA Cup ties between the two has seen +3.5 goals.
- The home team has not won the last five FA Cup ties between the two sides.
- This is the 11th time the two sides have met in the FA Cup: Tottenham have 4 wins, Chelsea 5 wins with 2 draws.
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
HEAD TO HEAD
Date Competition Result
04-01-2017 PL Tottenham 2 : 0 Chelsea
26-11-2016 PL Chelsea 2 : 1 Tottenham
02-05-2016 PL Chelsea 2 : 2 Tottenham
29-11-2015 PL Tottenham 0 : 0 Chelsea
01-03-2015 PL Chelsea 2 : 0 Tottenham
01-01-2015 PL Tottenham 5 : 3 Chelsea
This semi-final is the harder of the two to call. While Manchester City versus Arsenal is a salivating tie, Chelsea and Tottenham is the more eagerly anticipated of the two.
With the sides so evenly matched, the decisive factor could be nerves. Spurs will be determined to lay to rest the ghosts of their abysmal home performances at Wembley in the Champions League, there will also be fear about repeating that stage fright. It’s something Chelsea need to tap into, the element of doubt and while it sounds a small factor, on the day it is something which could be the difference between the two.
Chelsea are marginal favourites but on this occasion, I think Spurs will win by a single goal margin, possibly penalties.