Mauricio Pochettino will hope to fire a warning shot to other title challengers as Tottenham gear up to host Chelsea in a London derby on Saturday.
Tottenham have found steady footing in recent matches, with four wins on the trot, after a few struggling displays. Spurs though, have deeper problems than their performances, with perhaps injection of fresh faces of paramount importance. The squad is still one of the most complete ones on paper. But, the lack of form in some areas is starting to hurt the team’s chances of a good season.
Chelsea, on the other hand, are yet to taste defeat under Maurizio Sarri. But, their latest result, a 0-0 draw against Everton, meant the Blues are just a point ahead of their Saturday opponents, who have already lost three games so far this season. Work still needs to be done at Stamford Bridge before Chelsea become entirely comfortable with Sarri-ball.
Spurs have a poor record against the other top six sides. But, their recent results against London-based opponents would encourage them. Their last meeting was at Stamford Bridge, with Tottenham emerging victorious with a 3-1 scoreline.
We now take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Vincent Janssen, Davinson Sanchez, Mousa Dembele and Danny Rose are all sidelined for the London derby. Mauricio Pochettino finds himself in a pickle as far as choosing the back four is concerned. Kieran Trippier was forced off early against Crystal Palace and is a doubt for the game. Serge Aurier should start, in case Trippier cannot be fit in time.
Jan Vertonghen has returned to training. But, Pochettino will be wary of forcing Vertonghen to start before he is actually declared match-fit, which means the manager could have to go with the centre-back pairing of Juan Foyth and Toby Alderweireld. Ben Davies should complete the back four.
With no Mousa Dembele, Harry Winks is in with an opportunity to start alongside Eric Dier in the midfield pivot in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Lucas Moura are almost certain starters for the big game against Chelsea, owing to form and big-match pedigree.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Foyth, Davies; Winks, Dier; Lucas, Alli, Eriksen; Kane
Maurizio Sarri has almost all his key players at his disposal, with Ethan Ampadu the only one on the treatment table and the youngster is not a regular starter for Chelsea right now. Mateo Kovacic is a doubt for the game as well. With Ross Barkley on the road to redemption, Sarri is unlikely to force a half-fit Kovacic to take the field.
Nine of the eleven positions on the field are almost locked. The back four will comprise of Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso.
With Mateo Kovacic doubtful, Ross Barkley will take his place alongside Jorginho and N’Golo Kante in the midfield three. In attack, Eden Hazard is certain to start, with the other two spots a healthy toss-up.
Willian should prevail over Pedro, owing to recent form. To lead the attack, Sarri should opt for Alvaro Morata, who has somewhat come back into form, finding his scoring boots again, with Olivier Giroud having to make do with a place on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Morata, Hazard
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.61
2. Harry Kane to score anytime @ 1.95
3. Under 4.5 Cards @ 1.80
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 3.50
1. No Draws vs No Defeats – Chelsea are yet to lose a Premier League game while Tottenham have not registered a single draw in the league this season.
2. Chelsea have failed to score two goals against Tottenham just once in the last five league meetings between the London rivals.
3. Chelsea have won just two of their last 12 away league games against Tottenham (D5 L5).
4. Tottenham have not lost a single league game against Chelsea in which Harry Kane has scored.
5. Harry Kane has failed to score a goal in his last four league outings against Chelsea.
Player to Watch
While Moussa Sissoko is also an option to take Mousa Dembele’s place alongside Eric Dier in midfield, Harry Winks has proven his pedigree time and again when called upon by Mauricio Pochettino, who should opt to start the youngster. Winks has an industry and simplicity about his play that could be crucial to unlock the potential of the Tottenham lineup.
Winks will also provide an infusion of energy in midfield and could be the difference on Saturday.
Tottenham 2-2 Chelsea
The first match after the international break is often a difficult one for top teams, with most of their players away on international duty playing in a system different to the one deployed at their respective clubs. For Mauricio Pochettino, it is more a case of being able to motivate his players for the London derby, which could serve as a warning shot to their rivals.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have shown tenacity to grind out draws and wins, even when not at their best, which is the true hallmark of any great team. With the team undefeated, morale is high in the Chelsea camp. It should be an even encounter and we are likely to see the match end with a point for each team.