History awaits Chelsea. Thirteen consecutive wins in the Premier League; victory at White Hart Lane will equal the record of Arsenal’s Invincibles in 2003/04. More importantly, winning will underline the feeling that this title is Chelsea’s to lose.
Without disrespecting their form, Chelsea’s only ‘unexpected’ win during this run came at Manchester City. The rest of the games, they would have been at least 90% certain of winning. Nonetheless, they have to win the matches and with an admirable lack of fuss, they have done so.
Tottenham ran them close at Stamford Bridge a month ago, and are probably still scratching their heads to work out how they lost from such a commanding position. That performance, as well as their form since, will stand them in good heart for their toughest home match of the season.
After a miserable start to the season in front of goal, Tottenham have come to life scoring 16 in their last six games in all competitions. The balance between attack and defence which Mauricio Pochettino was struggling to find earlier in the campaign is here as his Spurs side has only conceded 5 in the same period.
Tottenham’s inferiority complex in London derbies is often cited as a major reason why they are never quite able to progress into a major trophy winning side. It isn’t that they are easy to beat in these matches – far from it – but when the crunch comes, they can’t win them. Draws feature all too regularly in their list of derby games.
This one is special to them though. The scars of last season have yet to heal properly and Chelsea hold something of a hex over them. While their home form is reasonable enough, they haven’t beaten the Blues since a 5 – 3 humiliation in 2015. Since then, it’s been two defeats and two draws. It’s a game the Lilywhites would dearly love to win.
Not least because it stops Chelsea entering their name in the record books although denying them a fourteenth consecutive Premier League win comes with mixed emotions as it preserves Arsenal’s record set in 2003/04. Tottenham aren’t so much caught between the devil and the deep blue sea as caught between the devil on one side and his twin brother on the other.
Kane and Alli have scored 18 goals between them this season, bursting into life in recent weeks. Worryingly, Kane’s goals come in bursts of three; he has three in his last two games already so if he’s going to break this trend, Chelsea is a good opponent to do that against.
Alli meanwhile has hit a brace of goals in each of his last two games and five in the last three. Bursting from midfield, the England international’s lineage can be traced back through Lampard and Scholes through to Martin Peters. He’s the sort of player the Tottenham crowd love.
Pochettino will have noted Stoke’s ability to pierce the Chelsea defence twice at the weekend. They were goals which hinted at a soft centre on the day and the Argentine will be looking to his side for a repeat of Mark Hughes’ side offensive plan.
Tottenham have no new injury worries to reflect upon and will welcome Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker after suspension ruled them out of the 4 – 1 drubbing of Watford. The wing back, along with Danny Rose on the left, is a vital piece of the Tottenham jigsaw. At Stamford Bridge, they were almost imperious in the first half but overrun by the mercurial Eden Hazard and Victor Moses in the second.
It’s that ability to ‘flick the switch’ which must concern Spurs. They need to be on their guard against Chelsea gaining a foothold in the game. Letting the Blues dominate has been the problem from which most of their opponents have suffered.
Tottenham’s biggest issue may yet be in their minds. Pressure is on them to win – not Chelsea – and they have the stigma of their form against their rivals. If they can overcome that, they may have a chance of taking all three points.
There is something refreshing about Chelsea’s recent run of form, even if the supporters of their rivals don’t necessarily agree. Antonio Conte saw a problem at the Emirates with his side trailing 0 – 3 at half-time and fixed it.
That was the defensive element. Now, bristling with confidence, they have added a vibrant attacking edge to their run of thirteen consecutive Premier League wins.
The sun is shining at Stamford Bridge and having won more enemies than friends under Jose Mourinho, Conte has won plenty of admirers. Not least because of the way he has motivated Diego Costa into arguably the best form of his career.
Last summer, the Spanish international made no secret of his desire to return to his ‘friends’ at Atletico Madrid. Chelsea, had they been able to land a ‘name’ striker, would have listened to offers as well. But no deals were reached and Costa remained.
And the Italian is mightily pleased he did. The leading goalscorer with 14 in the Premier League, there was an obvious affection between the manager and striker as he left the pitch against Stoke. Nobody can remember a time in his Premier League career where Costa has been at peace on the pitch, channelling his energies into his game rather than the dark arts of which his is a past master.
Chelsea have a good range of goalscorers in their side. Eden Hazard has 9, William 5; not bad for creative players but reassuring for Conte in the knowledge that his side are far from a one-man in team in front of goal.
Defensively, they still have moments of uncertainty. Stoke exploited them and no doubt, the Italian will work on the back four before this game. They will need to be aware of Harry Kane’s movement which hasn’t always resulted in goals for himself.
But the signing of the summer for them is proving to be N’Golo Kante. The former Leicester player is on course to receive his second champions medal and deservedly so. His 56 tackles are the 5th highest in the Premier League this season but more importantly, he with Ander Herrera, are the highest-ranking midfielders for interceptions with 48 each. A pivotal member of the Chelsea defence.
This Chelsea team is very much a sum of its parts; no one player is more important than another with each fulfilling a function for the collective. Given the rancour last year, it’s an incredible turnaround and includes a rejuvenated Cesc Fabregas as well!
The belief they have will stand them in good stead in what will be their toughest assignment since the Arsenal defeat. The atmosphere will be white hot but these players are seasoned campaigners at the highest level. It seems unlikely that they will wilt in the heat of the battle.
History though, may be beyond them. They won’t care so long as the title is landed in May. That is by far and away more important than a record which is set only to broken.
FORM (Last six games)
Tottenham Hotspur - WLWWWW
Chelsea - WWWWWW
- Chelsea have won more games against Spurs in the Premier League than they have against any other team (26).
- Chelsea have scored more goals against Spurs in the Premier League than they have against any other team (92).
- Harry Kane has 17 goals in his last 17 London derbies and 10 in 9 derbies played at White Hart Lane.
- Chelsea have led at HT and FT in the last 9 Premier League matches.
- In 7 of Tottenham’s last nine games, there have been +2.5 goals.
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CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
HEAD TO HEAD
Last six meetings
26/11/2016 Premier League - Chelsea 2 : 1 Tottenham Hotspur
02/05/2016 Premier League - Chelsea 2 : 2 Tottenham Hotspur
29/11/2015 Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur 0 : 0 Chelsea
01/03/2015 EFL Cup - Chelsea 2 : 0 Tottenham Hotspur
01/01/2015 Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur 5 : 3 Chelsea
03/12/2014 Premier League - Chelsea 3 : 0 Tottenham Hotspur
History being made is secondary to Chelsea; it’s win to stay clear at the top of the table. Long unbeaten runs when they end tend to have a negative impact on confidence for a couple of games and with a tough run of fixtures ahead, defeat is not an option.
The rest of the top four is banking on Spurs winning this one to puncture the tyres on the Chelsea juggernaut but every question asked of Antonio Conte since Arsenal destroyed them in the first half at the Emirates, has been successfully answered.
However, Spurs have come into form and enjoyed a prolific Christmas although I don’t think it will be enough for win, they are certainly good value for a point.
Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 2 Chelsea (14/1 with William Hill – Bet here!)
MY RECOMMENDED BETS
* Diego Costa to score, Chelsea win 1 – 0, 2 – 0 or 2 – 1 double (11/2 with William Hill – Bet here!)
* Harry Kane to score, Tottenham win 1 – 0, 2 – 0 or 2 – 1 double (15/2 with William Hill – Bet here!)
* Over 2.5 goals (12/5 with Betfred – Bet here!)
* Chelsea to score 2 in the first half (13/2 with Sky Bet – Bet here!)
* Dele Alli anytime goalscorer (3/1 with Unibet – Bet here!)
Francois is one of Howtobet4free’s co-founders and has written many of Howtobet4free’s popular Betting Guides. Francois also helps run the @howtobet4free_ Twitter account