White Hart Lane, London
September 28, 2013; 12:45 GMT
For decades, some of the most passionate and raucous fans in football have swarmed London’s streets and underground in passionately supporting their club. They have pitted themselves against one another, for supremacy on the pitch and for bragging rights off it. It is, therefore, only natural that London has been the breeding ground for some of the most hostile rivalries in world football. The North London Derby is usually the one that first springs to mind, while there is also the bitter rivalry between West Ham and Millwall among several others. Not too far down this list is the rivalry between Tottenham and Chelsea FC, which has gained even greater animosity in the past few seasons, who will be contesting one of several other London derbies this season.
Andre Villas Boas’s claim that he and Jose Mourinho ‘no longer share a personal or professional relationship’, and Jose’s subsequent retort is only going to further fan the flames in what promises to be a fiercely contested fixture. Villas Boas’s association with Chelsea ended sourly and even eighteen months hence, as his comments in the press have often showed, the scars from an unceremonious sacking haven’t healed completely.
On Saturday, the mentor and his protégé will go head to head for the first time. Jose Mourinho had a good record against Tottenham during his first time incharge at Chelsea, with a 2-1 home victory over Tottenham during 2005-06 season being one of the most memorable fixtures that year. Chelsea legend Peter Osgood had passed away a week before that game and the club and fans were able to pay their tributes at Stamford Bridge, the Englishman’s favorite hunting ground, only for the first time. The game was won courtesy a late late goal from William Gallas followed by exuberant touchline celebrations and much nodding of the heads that this was a goal that Ossie would have been proud of.
Since then, William Gallas has done a round trip of London, having played for Arsenal and Tottenham both after leaving Chelsea; AVB has seen his career graph rise, take a dip and rise again while Mourinho has completed his European tour and returned home. ‘Willy’ Gallas might not be too sure whom to support, but come the weekend, Chelsea and Tottenham will renew their rivalry yet again.
Team News, Tactics & Lineups
Contrary to every expectation and prediction, a month into the Premier League and Tottenham are sitting pretty joint top of the table. The departure of Gareth Bale, Tottenham’s messiah for last two seasons, was supposed to be a hammer blow to the club but instead seems to have proven a strange blessing in disguise. The Welshman’s sale has allowed Tottenham to address several key areas and strengthened a squad that has steadily grown in confidence under current manager. It will, however, be interesting to see how long they can continue this spell.
On the injuries front, Aaron Lennon and Etienne Capoueis are out injured for Spurs while Danny Rose, who picked up a knock, midweek in the Europa league, is expected to return. Emmanuel Adebayor remains match-unfit. That is however unlikely to be much of a hindrance as a familiar formation and line-up, that featured against Cardiff last week, is set to greet Chelsea at White Hart Lane.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, Hugo Lloris is set to resume his duties between the post, assisted by a reliant back-four of Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose. Together, this Tottenham defence has conceded only one goal this season in the defeat against Arsenal; the best record in the Premier League so far. The duo of Mousa Dembele and Paulinho, ever present this season, will feature in the holding midfield role. Tottenham under Villas Boas have stressed on a possession based style but have still managed to utilize the flanks to create scoring chances, a potent combination which owes its effectiveness in no small measure to these two. Paulinho has been especially effective, with tireless running and passing in the middle of the park.
The attacking trio is set to feature the youngster Andros Townsend, a Tottenham academy product who has broken through to the first team this season, alongside Christian Eriksen through the middle and Sigurdsson on the other flank. Roberto Soldado will be the target man. And while the former Valencia man has scored only two goals in the Premier league, it has not been for the want of chances. Soldado has found himself in scoring positions on several occasions during his team in North London so far, and Chelsea’s defence will have to be on their best against the slippery Spaniard, apart from keeping their talented midfield at bay.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris(GK); Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose; Dembele, Paulinho; Townsend, Eriksen, Sigurdsson; Soldado
After shock defeats against Everton and Basle, successive victories against Fulham and Swindon have calmed the nerves in Southwest London. It has been a jittery start, but Chelsea are gradually showing signs of getting into the mould that Jose Mourinho has in mind. As a direct consequence, even after putting in good shifts in the League cup encounter and Mourinho’s approving response, Juan Mata and David Luiz are again likely to get dropped. To be fair to Mata, he is trying to adapt to Mourinho’s style, but the man who was the man of the match in the same fixture last year by a Sussex country mile, will be featuring only on the bench.
The League cup also served Chelsea the seasonal dose of crippling season-long injuries with Marco van Ginkel being pulled off with cruciate ligament injury. Elsewhere, Ramires too is a doubt for the fixture, although he is certain to start should he be fit. The rest of the squad will be available for selection.
Chelsea will be lining up in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, with Petr Cech between the posts and a back-four of Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Ashley Cole in front of him. With a slight midfield crisis, Frank Lampard will be certain to start in midfield pivot and is likely to be partnered by John Obi Mikel. Ramires, with his tireless running around the park, would have been a natural choice against a Tottenham midfield that is going to be at its attacking best at home, but his absence means that the Nigerian is Chelsea’s next best bet. The fact that he scored his first Chelsea goal in seven years only last week means that Obi himself would be raring to go.
Mourinho has made no bones about his admiration for a certain Brazilian who, to all appearances, he intends to build his team around. Oscar would be starting in number 10 role, flanked on either side by Eden Hazard and Andre Schuerrle. The battle on the wings between Hazard and Kyle Walker will be an intriguing one. The latter has been on top of his game this season, and Hazard is no walk-over by any stretch of imagination. Walker’s attacking forays could open spaces up for the Belgian to run into, and there is no dearth of tricks that he cannot pull of the proverbial hat. Oscar’s presence alongside Lampard and Mikel against Dembele, Eriksen and Paulinho means that it will be congested in the middle of the park and the outcome of the game could be very well determined by who comes out superior on the wings.
Fernando Torres, after earning himself a goal and an assist against Swindon, might have earned himself a place at White Hart Lane. He will be leading the line for Chelsea.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech(GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Schurrle, Oscar, Hazard; Torres
- Chelsea are undefeated in 12 of their last 13 matches in the Premier League.
- Chelsea have taken 30 points from the last 39 available since the beginning of April.
- Chelsea also boast a solid record against Spurs in the Premier League era, claiming 23 wins to the Lilywhites’ three and 16 draws.
- Tottenham have won their last 5 home matches in the Premier League.
- Tottenham have kept a clean sheet in their last 4 home matches in the Premier League.
Player to watch out for
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
While a certain Oscar has been hogging all the limelight, and for good reasons, this might just be the fixture which allows another player, who has been brilliant for Chelsea this season, the platform to shine; Eden Hazard. Barring a rare exception, the young Belgian has been putting in consistent performances for the blues. His brilliant effort against Bayern Munich of all clubs went cruelly unrewarded and he still is seen by some to have not realised his full potential. However, under Jose, he has been defensively helping out his full backs alongside the usual trickery and skill that he brings on the table and is surely reaching the top of his game.
Tottenham Hotspurs 1-1 Chelsea
With so many contradictory markers and signboards en route to the kick-off to this game, making an accurate prediction is hardly going to be a cakewalk. On current run of form both teams look good and a draw is a likely outcome, but there will be goals in it and that extra bit that always comes in with an old fashioned London Derby.
Blast From The Past
William ‘Willy’ Gallas’s 92nd minute screamer, March 2006