In what would have been the perfect matchup in the Premier League to decide the title once and for all, the bitter rivals meet in the FA Cup semi-final for a chance at a trophy, and perhaps more significantly, a psychological advantage going in to the run-in

Having eight representations out of a possible 11 in the recently announced PFA Team of the Year, Wembley awaits the two best teams in the land this season for what is undoubtedly going to be a spectacular affair.

The Lilywhites make their journey from the north of London with some serious momentum on their side. Undefeated at home for 11 matches now and making a statement of intent with each passing game, Mauricio Pochettino has made this side into proverbial world-beaters. The return of Harry Kane, the impressive rise of Dele Alli and the surprising influence of Son have made them what they are now – a breath away from title glory.

The Blues, meanwhile, have stuttered in the title race. The loss to Crystal Palace at home followed by a loss to Man United away has put brakes on the celebrations for now. Even though they are still favourites to win the whole thing, it is their performance in this match which will determine how ready they are for a battle. This is also their first appearance in the semi-finals since 2013, and they would be hoping to make the finals to prove a point to those doubting their credentials as champions-elect.

Probable lineups and tactics

Chelsea

Gary Cahill reportedly spent two nights in a hospital with an unknown illness and may not be fit enough to start. Marcos Alonso (illness) and Thibaut Courtois (ankle) are expected to slot right back in to the starting eleven.

The Blues will line up in their now standard 3-4-3 formation. N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic are likely to be at the centre of the 4-man midfield, linking up attack and defence. Although they seem to have hit a rough patch of form, Chelsea’s attack boasts of some of the biggest names in football.

When two teams virtually cancel each other out in terms of style of play, which these two do, players who find spaces are a boon to the team. Very few can compare to the abilities of Eden Hazard in this regard. The diminutive Belgian rarely gone missing in the big games and Chelsea will be hoping he is up for it this time too.

Also, with Cahill most likely to miss out, Kurt Zouma could take his place in the left-side of defence.

Probable lineup (3-4-3): Courtois(GK); Azpilicueta, Luiz, Zouma; Alonso, Matic, Kante, Moses; Pedro, Hazard, Costa

Tottenham Hotspur

Pochettino has a clean bill of health for his team with everyone available to start, including Harry Kane who returned early from ankle injury and is setting the Premier League alight again. Only Danny Rose is a long-term absentee.

They will be expected to line up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele sitting in front of the back four. At a stage of the season where Spurs normally flounder, this time they are looking fitter than before and ready for a fight.

Chelsea will know what to expect. The Spurs players will be on them like a rash and will not relent until they have the ball – or the man. With Dembele adept at linking play between defence and attack, a quick counter-attacking style could be the order of the day.

And what an attack they have. If points were given in the Premier League for swagger alone, Spurs would have wrapped up the title by now. The best defence in the league and the second-best attack make good reading for Spurs’ fans. But the reality is this, lose this match and a relatively tough run-in to the end proves too much for them, they will have nothing to show for their efforts come end of May.

Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris (GK); Davies, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Walker; Dier, Dembele; Alli, Eriksen, Son; Kane

Players to watch out for

Diego Costa (Chelsea)

Will the real Costa please stand up? (Photo courtesy - Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Will the real Costa please stand up? (Photo courtesy – Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

With many doubting his recent run of form – his worst drought as a Chelsea player – this could be the perfect opportunity for the Spaniard to silence his doubters. Rumours also surrounding his impending move to China which will make him the highest paid player in the world, his head is unlikely to be in the right place.

Having said that, however, he is the best when his back is against the wall, and come kick-off, he will be up for a fight. Whether he influences the game or not, Costa is always one to watch out for!

Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

Only way is up! (Photo courtesy Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Only way is up! (Photo courtesy Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Many are touting this young man to be the next big thing in English football. All of 21, Dele is in the form of his life. His footballing intelligence combined with his insane reading of the game say he will live up to the billing.

As far as this match goes, his almost telepathic understanding with Harry Kane is what will worry the Chelsea defence the most. He thrives at being the focal point of attack and will be hoping to perform a similar role come kick-off.

Key Stats

  • The last time these sides met in the FA Cup was at this stage in 2012 – Chelsea won that match 5-1 on the way to the trophy
  • Spurs have only won 2 of their last 16 meetings with Chelsea in all competitions
  • Chelsea are looking to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since April 2016
  • Spurs have lost six FA Cup semi-finals in a row and are looking to avoid a seventh straight defeat
  • Son Heung-min is the joint-top scorer in the FA Cup this season with six goals

Prediction

Chelsea 1-1 Tottenham (Chelsea to win in Extra Time)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: Kyle Walker of Tottenham Hotspur (L) takes the ball past Nemanja Matic of Chelsea (R) during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on January 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

A tightly fought affair is expected (Photo courtesy Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Come the end of 90 minutes, there will be nothing to separate the sides. Hence, we could be headed to extra time or even possibly penalties.

Two of the best defences in the Premier League will mostly cancel each other out, but the team who can keep calm the most should win this. Given that Chelsea have been here and done that many a time before, they have the slight edge.

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