The iconic Wembley Stadium is set to host the first London derby of the season on Sunday, when defending champions Chelsea take on arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur
It seems fitting that last season’s champions and runners’ up go head to head in what will be the first ever Premier League game to be contested at Wembley stadium. It is the 58th different stadium to host the tournament and we should expect a hotly contested tie between the two rivals.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side got off to a good start this season at St.James’ Park, with a 0-2 victory against Newcastle last week. Chelsea on the other hand, had the worse possible start to their title defence, by getting thrashed by Burnley 2-3 at Stamford Bridge.
If that wasn’t bad enough, they also have two players key players suspended after getting sent off. Spurs, barring the absence of Danny Rose, have no such injury concerns. Recent history may not be on their side, given that they have just one 1 victory in 9 games at Wembley since beating Chelsea in the final of the Carling Cup back in 2008, but they have enough quality in their squad to not let that be an issue when they take on the champions.
Erik Lamela, Georges-Kevin N’koudou and Danny Rose will all remain sidelined for this tie. But Kieran Trippier has recovered early from his injury and was to be the subject of a last minute fitness assessment and it is likely that Pochettino may choose to risk the Englishman at Wembley.
The absence of Trippier and the uncertainty surrounding Wanyama’s fitness saw Spurs use a 4-2-3-1 formation in their opening match against Brighton last week, but it likely that Pochettino will now use a 3-4-3, given that Trippier has made such good progress in his recovery.
Now that Victor Wanyama has returned to full fitness, he will likely start alongside Mousa Dembele in the middle of the park with Eric Dier going back to the right side of central defence, alongside Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.
Ben Davies is expected to start at left wingback while Pochettino has some decisions to make on whether to use Kieran Trippier or Kyle Walker-Peters at right wing-back. While Pochettino has never shied away from giving youngsters a chance, he may choose to use the more senior player for a match of this magnitude. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen will likely set up shop in behind Harry Kane
Predicted Starting XI(3-4-3): Hugo Lloris; Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld; Kieran Trippier, Mousa Dembele, Victor Wanyama, Ben Davies; Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane, Dele Alli
Conte will be without the services of suspended duo Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas for this tie. Eden Hazard and Pedro are not expected to feature as they are still recovering from injuries. Tiemoue Bakayoko is expected to start this game on the bench, but a starting spot is unlikely.
Victor Moses’ return should no doubt come as a big boost for Antonio Conte, as it gives him options at right-back, wingback or even upfront as winger. However, with Fabregas still out, it remains to be seen how the Blues line up with only 1 central midfielder in the squad.
Conte could use a number of different formations to try and make up for the absence of personnel. A 4-1-4-1 is a possibility, with N’golo Kante as a defensive midfielder with Willian, Jeremie Boga, Victor Moses, Charly Musonda making up the midfield and Alvaro Morata leading the line.
A 3-5-2 is another option, with both Michy Batshuayi and Alvaro Morata leading the line. Alonso and Moses at wingback with Willian, Kante and Boga making up the midfield. However, David Luiz is almost certainly not going to be deployed in midfield, a position he often played in his first spell at Chelsea after Conte stated his preference of using the Brazilian in defence.
Should Conte decide to stick to his usual 3-4-3 formation, using Cesar Azpilicueta at right wingback and pushing Moses upfront would allow Andreas Christensen to come in at left center-back. Michy Batshuayi could start on the left of Morata with Willian taking up a central role alongside Kante.
Predicted Starting XI(3-4-3): Thibaut Courtois; Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Andreas Christensen; Cesar Azpilicueta, Willian, Kante, Alonso; Moses, Morata, Batshuayi
- Chelsea have lost just 2 matches against Tottenham Hotspur in their last 17 clashes in all competitions, winning 8 and drawing 7.
- Tottenham Hotspur have never lost a Premier League London derby at home during Mauricio Pochettino’s reign, winning 9 and drawing 4.
- If Chelsea lose tomorrow, they will be the first Premier League champions to lose the first 2 matches of their title defence.
- Chelsea have lost only 3 Premier League away games during Antonio Conte’s reign, winning 13 and drawing 3.
- Out of the 9 defeats Antonio Conte has suffered during his time at Chelsea, 6 have been against a team based in London.
1. Harry Kane to score anytime @ 1.90
2. Over 10.5 Corners @ 1.83
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 3.60
Players To Watch
Tottenham Hotspur: Harry Kane
Surprisingly, Kane has failed to score in Premier League goal in August in 11 appearances, but it wouldn’t be wise to rule out the possibility. He has however, scored an astounding 18 goals in 21 League appearances against opposition based in London.
Earlier this summer, Conte labelled him as a ‘complete striker’ and estimated him to be worth a £100 million, at least. The Englishman is a one short of 100 Tottenham goals across all competitions and will undoubtedly be anxious to get it at Wembley in a London derby against their arch rivals.
Chelsea: Alvaro Morata
Chelsea’s record signing came on last week with a little over 30 minutes to go very nearly brought the Blues level. It was a superb way to announce his arrival at the English top flight, scoring a superb diving header and providing David Luiz with the assist for Chelsea’s second of the match.
There were concerns over the Spaniard’s fitness, given that he had been with Chelsea only for a few weeks and had barely featured in pre-season. Needless to say, he put all those concerns to rest with a fine display, albeit it didn’t end well for the champions.
If he could have such an impact in 35 minutes and with only 9 other men in his team, Blues fans will be anxious to see what kind of a performance he could put in if he were named in the starting XI with the backing a a full Chelsea side behind him.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Chelsea
Despite the injury and suspension crisis going on at the club, the Blues should still be able to put up a fight against their arch rivals. While a victory would be the ideal result, Chelsea aren’t anywhere near full strength and so a draw would also be a positive step forward for the Blues.
Tottenham will be desperate to break their Wembley curse and start their first ‘home’ game of the season on a positive note and what better way than to take the scalp of the reigning champions? Pochettino’s men will look to take no prisoners and Conte’s men should expect no mercy.
Spurs do have their own injury woes, but still have the luxury of being able to call upon most of their first team players, unlike Chelsea and there shouldn’t be any shortage of goals given the defensive woes of both sides. However, last week’s humiliating defeat should have serve as a good wake up call we can expect to see a far more motivated Chelsea side at Wembley.