Premier League 17/18 Week 32: Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The race for a place in next season’s Champions League heats up as 4th placed Spurs travel to 5th placed Chelsea
16:00 BST, Sunday 1st April, Stamford Bridge (London, England) Sky Sports
With 5 points separating these two London clubs, this is a match which Chelsea can’t afford to lose if they’re to have a realistic chance of a top-four finish this season.
Antonio Conte’s side have been stuttering badly over the last two months, losing 4 of their last 6 league fixtures. With 3 of those defeats inflicted on the road, Stamford Bridge remains a relative fortress that has only been breached twice this season but now is the time when the Blues must stand tall and prove they belong amongst Europe’s elite.
For Mauricio Pochettino, his side are once again coming into form at the right time of the season. With four consecutive wins in the league and an unbeaten run which now stretches 12 Premier League games, Spurs are also winning neutrals over with their style of play.
This will mean little, however, if they’re unable to add something tangible to their season and with only the F Cup left to play for, Tottenham will need to keep their good form rolling starting at a ground they’ve failed to win at during their last 25 league attempts.
Last Time Out
Leicester City 1-2 Chelsea (aet) (FA Cup)
Following a midweek exit from the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona, Chelsea fought hard to keep their FA Cup dreams on course against a determined set of Foxes. Leicester made the more energetic start to this match which left the Blues looking fatigued from their 3-0 defeat just 4 days earlier.
Despite plenty of criticism to the contrary, Álvaro Morata was full of running in this game as he was one of Chelsea’s few players to take Leicester’s challenge head-on. He was justly rewarded in the 42nd minute when he converted Willian’s cross to score from Chelsea’s first real opportunity in the game.
Leicester continued to attack after the break and Jamie Vardy’s strike took the match into extra time, however, Chelsea became more dominant as the game wore on. Substitute, Pedro, clinched the winning goal at the end of the first period of added time and the London side held on to make Leicester rue their missed chances from earlier in the tie.
Swansea City 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur (FA Cup)
Despite missing three of their most talented players, Spurs cruised into the semi-finals with a sublime performance against the struggling Swans. With Harry Kane injured, Son Heung-min led the line but it was the flair and industry of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela just behind him who set the foundations for Spurs win.
Following an 11th minute goal from Eriksen, Spurs were rampant and could easily have doubled the lead before Lamela hit the net in injury time of the first half. A shot from Eriksen hit the crossbar, Eric Dier failed to put a free-header on target and Lucas Moura also missed from only six yards out while Son had a goal ruled out by VAR for an offside infringement.
Former Swansea keeper Michel Vorm was also called into action making a fine save from Martin Olsson and then a follow-up shot by Tammy Abraham’s, however, Eriksen’s second goal on the hour mark reasserted their authority on the game and they strolled through the final stages of the match to a deserved win.
Thibaut Courtois still has a minor hamstring problem which could see Willy Caballero continue in goal. Andreas Christensen also has a small knock which could see him rested while Ross Barkley (fitness) Ethan Ampadu (ankle) and David Luiz (knee) will all definitely miss out on Sunday.
Tottenham Hotspur Lineup
Harry Kane is recovering quicker than expected from his ankle injury but will still be missing this weekend as will Harry Winks who also has an ankle problem. Hugo Lloris should resume between the sticks for Spurs with Mousa Dembélé and Victor Wanyama likely to be paired together in midfield again with Dele Alli also looking to break back into the starting lineup. Toby Alderweireld is also fit but may be left on the sidelines for such an important match given the lack of playing time he’s had recently.
Key Battle: Eden Hazard (Chelsea) vs Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
All eyes will be on the two team’s respective magicians for the spark which can propel them towards victory. Hazard has been Chelsea’s best player by far this season and will be the main creative force in the team once more. Having had 26.2% of the Blues chances to score this calendar year, his form has been improving as the season has progressed despite the club’s recent slump in form which means he could once more be crucial to their overall hopes.
While Tottenham have had many players hitting peak form lately, Eriksen continues to be the player who pulls the strings which makes them effective. With 7 goals and 9 assists in the league already this season, he may be behind his own record from last season, however, as a team player, this will not concern him as much as contributing towards the collective ambitions of his side.
Down and out?
Heading into this London derby five points behind both Tottenham and a place in the top four, Antonio Conte will well know he’s close to underachieving with his team this season. Having proclaimed that last season’s title win was an over-achievement, the least anyone in Stamford Bridge would have expected this year would be to regain their place in the Champions League for another season.
It is more the nature of their recent form which has been the root of worry since Chelsea have sat in third position for much of the season before slowly losing their grip since the turn of the year. Conte spoke this week of his uncertainty of whether he will still be in charge of the blues in August, something which could be increasingly unlikely if they face defeat this weekend to fall 8 points behind a side they had an 8 point advantage over on New Years Day.
Style over substance
Antonio Conte this week added more flames to the fire of Tottenham’s need to win a title. Now 10 years since they last won any silverware, a trophy remains the one thing missing from Tottenham’s impressive rise over the last few years.
While much has been made of Chelsea’s revolving managerial policy, the simple fact is that Roman Abramovich has silverware to back up his actions. While Tottenham have the moral high-ground when it comes to their style of play and the emergence of young talent within their team, Conte’s assessment that “trophies matter” is something which could well hit a cord in North London and something which Pochettino needs to address if he’s to be considered a success on all levels when the history books look back on his time in charge of the club.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham are the side who have consistently been playing the better football of late and should be slight favourites despite playing away from home. With fourth position in the league and a good chance these two teams will meet again in the FA Cup final, both sides will be desperate to lay down a good marker from this fixture but could find themselves evenly matched this weekend.