Chelsea – Tottenham (Premier League)
Premier League will be back on Saturday for a reduced round of matches that coincide with FA Cup quarter-finals. At Stamford Bridge 1st and 5th seeds will go head-to-head with no margin for errors. It’s the final run and any dropped point may keep them from fulfilling their season’s goals. Who will cave first?
That is the problem with squads who feature the best players in the world, virtually every single one of Chelsea‘s starters was called for national team duty on Wednesday. Less than 72 hours later they’ll be back on the pitch, in what is probably the most competitive division in the world, to defend their top spot.
José Mourinho refuses the notion Chelsea is atop of the Premier League. Yes, they in front of Arsenal and Liverpool but if City succeeds in both ties they are behind – to Sunderland and Manchester United – the lead will be theirs. So, no pressure, keep your heads in the game and don’t slip. Starting this Saturday. The round brings Tottenham to Stamford Bridge for another London derby. The Blues will have the strength of their convictions and an unbeaten at home record in the League for the season on their side. That stands for 12 wins and 2 draws, nothing if not impressive. Topped only for Mourinho’s track. Just last weekend they beat Everton 1-0 there. They also count with the fact Chelsea have the best defense of the division, 22 goals against.
Eden Hazard picked up a knock in Wednesday in Belgium’s friendly 2-2 draw with Ivory Coast. Chelsea’s star received a kick on his ankle from Tioté virtually in the very first time he touched the ball. Despite the soreness and swelling he should be back in action for the Blues on Saturday.
Probable line-up: Cech – Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta – Ramires, Matic – Shurrle, Hazard, William – Eto’o.
Tim Sherwood’s side kept in touch with the top three pack last weekend with a 1-0 home win over bottom squad Cardiff City. Roberto Soldado netted for the first time this year around the half-hour mark and got them the crucial 3 points. Still, 10 League fixtures to go they sit in 5th place with 53 points, four behind Manchester City that are two matches short at the moment. The standings can shift at any moment and all they can do it’s their part, gather as many points as possible in their own ties. And hope others stumble elsewhere. This Saturday they’ll have the chance to rattle the cage of interim leaders of the Premier League table.
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been instrumental in Tottenham’s resilience at the table. With Spurs being a side that finds it hard to score his saves have secure many of the three points, especially when in their outings.
The Spurs must be bracing themselves for the three weeks ahead. Following Chelsea they’ll cross paths with Benfica twice in the next Europa League round, return to White Hart Lane to host Arsenal and Southampton right before paying a visit to Anfield Road. How is that for a stretch? How, and where in the standings, will they emerge on April 1st?
Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches remain in the treatment room. Kyle Walker and Christien Eriksen are likely to be in contention after missing out on the international friendlies. Younes Kaboul, Danny Rose and Ezekiel Fryers are in doubt.
Probable line-up: Lloris – Naughton, Dawson, Vertonghen, Fryers – Paulinho, Sandro, Bentaleb – Dembélé, Adebayor, Lennon.
The reverse fixture resulted in a 1-1 stalemate at White Hart Lane in September, AVB was still in charge. So did the corresponding one late last season, that time around with 2 goals for each side. Oscar and Ramires scored for the Blues, Adebayor and Sigurdsson for the Spurs. Gareth Bale was still a Lilywhite.