After Tuesday’s 4-0 Champion’s League victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv, in Israel, Mourinho said “It’s important to have two victories in just a few days. I hope tranquillity comes…” It is unfortunate then that the beleaguered Chelsea gaffer must take his side across the Capital to face a Tottenham side that is almost the complete antithesis of his message.
Spurs have flown somewhat under the radar this season, loosing only once in the entire campaign – a 1-0 defeat on the opening day to Manchester United, a game they were unlucky not to get more from. Boss Pochettino has bred a young, mobile, highly motivated side that is perhaps the fittest in the league. Until Jurgen Klopp changed the batteries in his new look Liverpool side, no one had covered as much ground as Spurs. This season, as a team, they have covered, on average, 115.7km per game.
Pochettino’s bombastic style relies heavily on this ability to simply out run teams, something that is up for debate after 7,362mile round trip on Thursday night to face Azerbaijani outfit Qarabag. The Argentinean manager named a surprisingly strong side in the 1-0 win, a result that guarantees European football after Christmas, but a combination of the taxing game and the gargantuan distance covered may leave the players too heavy in the legs to effectively exploit their tried and trusted game plan.
It has been pointed out that last year’s corresponding fixture was the game the changed Chelsea’s season. After dominating the league, blasting sides out of their path in a rarely seen attractive brand of football, a Harry Kane inspired Spurs put an end to that. Loosing 5-3 saw Chelsea revert back to Mourinho’s default setting; defensive, efficient football where the results comes first and the style is a distant after thought. Sunday’s game allows Mourinho the chance to once again transform his season at White Hart Lane; a win would be confirmation that they are a side back on track.
Spurs will be without the increasingly impressive Dele Alli who will be suspended. After receiving a rest midweek, Pochettino can, and probably will, call upon the services of Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Mousa Dembele.
Chelsea will have to give late assessments to the midfield pairing of Ramires and Fabregas, while they will almost certainly be without Captain John Terry after he sustained an ankle injury midweek. This will deprive Mourinho of the option of deploying Kurt Zouma in front of Terry, a tactic that was instrumental in the shackling of Harry Kane in the League Cup final win last season.
A win for Tottenham solidifies their reputation as a side with legitimate designs, if not on the title itself, then certainly Champion’s League qualification. Chelsea on the other hand need a win to prove that they have turned the corner, not merely just peered around its edge.
Lilywhites: Lloris (c), Walker, Alderweirald, Vertonghen, Rose, Dier, Mason, Dembele, Son, Eriksen, Kane.
Blues: Begovic; Ivanovic (c), Zouma, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Fabregas, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Pedro; Hazard.