Football Features

Spurs vs Chelsea: Five things we think could happen

By Oliver Young-Myles

Spurs vs Chelsea Preview

Published: 12:54, 22 December 2019

Matches between Spurs and Chelsea are always eagerly anticipated but Sunday’s meeting between the two at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been amped up further courtesy of the presence of Jose Mourinho in the home dugout.

Mourinho has, of course, locked horns with his two-time employers on numerous occasions in the past but never before has he done so while in charge of their most hated opponents.

Although Manchester City vs Leicester City proved to be an intriguing match-up which pitted the reigning champions up against this season’s unlikely title challengers, Sunday’s London derby is unquestionably the game in the Premier League this weekend.

Here are five things we expect to happen…

1. Jose Mourinho to extend his unbeaten record against former clubs

An 11-month break from football appears to have done Mourinho the world of good.

The 56-year-old appears reinvigorated and revitalised by this new challenge bestowed upon him by Daniel Levy and his chirpy demeanour thus far is in stark contrast to the doom-and-gloom figure that cast a shadow over Old Trafford last year.

Mourinho has made all the right noises so far: he has befriended a ballboy, apologised to Eric Dier for chucking him under a bus against Olympiacos and likened Heung-Min Son to the original Ronaldo after his slaloming run ripped to Burnley to ribbons.

This game, though, will test Mourinho’s new-found personable outlook to its very limit. As much as the Portuguese has been keen to portray himself as the humble one at Spurs, he will want more than anything to get one over on Chelsea.

History suggests he may well do so too considering he is unbeaten in 13 home matches against his former clubs, winning 12 of them. With Spurs in good form and Chelsea defeated in four of their previous five league games, Mourinho will be confident of upsetting his former charge, Frank Lampard.

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2. Dominating the midfield battle key to Chelsea’s hopes

This is, without doubt, the most difficult run of Lampard’s fledgling managerial career to date.

Prior to the start of the final international break of 2019 last month, Chelsea were riding high in the Premier League table in third-place, level on points with Leicester City and 12 clear of Spurs. Since then, they have taken only three points from a possible 15, contriving to lose at home to both West Ham and Bournemouth.

Another defeat at the weekend would see Chelsea and Spurs trade places in the league and although the hosts are the slight favourites given recent form, Lampard’s side have enough about them to secure a positive result, particularly in the midfield area.

Due to impending fixture congestion, Lampard has chopped and changed his midfield trio in recent weeks but it would come as a major surprise if he deviated away from his best line-up consisting of N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic against Spurs. Between the three of them, there is the perfect blend of industry, passing ability (both short and long), dribbling qualities and ball-winning capabilities.

It is the one area of the pitch in which Chelsea are far superior to Spurs, particularly if Mourinho sticks with a stodgy pairing of Dier and Moussa Sissoko in front of the back four. If Chelsea are able to make their midfield quality count their chances of feeding an exciting frontline and protecting a vulnerable backline will be far greater.

3. Dele Alli will continue his good run against Chelsea

From debuting as a 16-year-old for MK Dons against Cambridge United in 2012 to scoring for England in a World Cup quarter-final in 2018, Dele Alli’s career had only ever gone in one direction: up.

Over the past 18-months, however, Alli’s career hit its first speed bump. The goals dried up, the impudent tricks and flicks disappeared and worryingly a susceptibility to hamstring injuries developed. So indifferent were Alli’s performances at the start of this season, meanwhile, that the phone calls from Gareth Southgate stopped.

Since Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino, though, the old Alli has been back. Redeployed in a second-striker/No.10 hybrid role, Alli has delivered three goals and three assists in five Premier League appearances under Mourinho, adding another strike in the Champions League against Olympiacos for good measure.

Alli’s return to form is bad news for Chelsea considering some of his best moments in a Spurs shirt have come against them. There were those two identical back post headers in January 2017, a remarkable sliding half-volley in an FA Cup semi-final defeat later on that year and another double at Stamford Bridge in 2018 which helped Spurs end a 28 year and 27 game winless run at that ground.

In total, Alli has scored six goals in seven meetings with the Blues – his joint-highest number of goals against any opponent along with Watford. Considering Chelsea have let in 17 goals in eight league games on the road this season, Alli will be licking his lips.

4. Heung-Min Son and Christian Pulisic to have a field day

Unless either manager springs a surprise, Spurs will set out in a 4-2-3-1 and Chelsea in a 4-3-3 for the game.

Each system calls upon on wide attacking players to make a difference in the final third and Son and Christian Pulisic, Messrs Mourinho and Lampard boast two of the most explosive and in-form wingers in the Premier League.

Son is one of the few Spurs players whose good form predated Mourinho’s arrival but he has continued to blossom under new management, scoring twice and laying on five goals in seven appearances. Mourinho has been quick to praise his players at any given opportunity but you get the impression that Son has quickly become his teachers pet.

Pulisic, meanwhile, might have followed a run of five goals in three Premier League games in late October and early November with a scoreless run of five matches but the underlying statistics suggest that he is due another haul. Over the past four games, the American has fired off 15 shots for a combined xG of 2.12.

Pulisic Watford goal

Lampard has had issues with his full-backs of late with neither Emerson Palmieri nor Marcos Alonso impressing consistently on the left and Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James alternating on the right. Serge Aurier is one of the big winners of Mourinho’s appointment for Spurs but his defensive deficiencies are well-documented and an ageing Jan Vertonghen had a tough task containing Wolves’ livewire Adama Traore last time out.

5. Goals galore

Mourinho coined his famous ‘park the bus phrase’ after his Chelsea side were held to a goalless draw by Spurs a couple of months into his first reign at Stamford Bridge in 2004, but since then there have only have been two occasions from 29 meetings in which both sides have failed to score.

Traditionally then, this fixture guarantees goals and given both of these teams are stronger in attack than they are in defence, it would be a huge shock if the same isn’t true this weekend.

Only the current top three clubs have outscored Spurs (32) and Chelsea (31) so far this season and with the likes of Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham, Son, Pulisic, Alli and Willian likely to start, there is no shortage of attacking talent for either manager to call upon.

Conversely, at the other end, Arsenal are the only side currently positioned in the top ten to concede more times than their London rivals, letting in 27 to Chelsea’s 25 and Spurs’ 24.

On average, there have been more than three goals per game across the previous 10 games involving the two clubs and everything points to a similarly free-scoring event once more.


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