Tottenham Hotspur began the 2017-18 season with a professional performance against Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. The Magpies aren’t the most formidable of opponents, but the energy from a newly promoted side, with an opening day crowd at their back, is a challenge nonetheless. Add to the fact that Spurs have struggled to win three points in Premier League kick-offs the past few seasons and its a great result.
If Arsenal are the grand villain in Tottenham’s history, then Chelsea have done their best to dispute that status in recent memory. The current crop of Tottenham and Chelsea players just plain dislike each other and each of the last four encounters have been nasty. Chelsea come to Wembley Stadium both banged up and suspended. Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas will miss out due to their red cards in Chelsea’s embarrassing home defeat to Burnley, while Eden Hazard, Pedro, and new signing Tiémoué Bakayoko are out injured, though there are rumors that Bakayoko might be in line to play. Diego Costa, foe of Tottenham Hotspur and world football, is in the process of exiting Stamford Bridge as well.
What this does is bring a somewhat odd looking Chelsea team to Tottenham’s doorstep. Not that this side won’t be talented, but just very different. Assuming that Antonio Conte continues with his 3-4-3, then David Luiz, the heart of Chelsea’s defense will have to move to defensive midfield. This alone means that Chelsea’s two best defenders (including Cahill here) won’t actually be playing in defense on Sunday. Victor Moses might be back, which would push Azpilicueta to the right center-back spot and new signing Antonio Ruddier to the middle of the center-back three. Either way, its less than first choice for the Blues.
N’Golo Kante will still be the magnificent player and midfield engine that he is, while terrible human being Willian should bring flair to Chelsea’s attack. Its also an interesting day for Alvaro Morata who might be in line to start. The big money striker scored on his debut and should be first choice ahead of Michy Batshuayi, if not starting alongside him if Conte tinkers with his lineup. Lastly, lesser known, but talented attacker Jeremie Boga will have another chance to impress against Spurs at just twenty years old.
It is isn’t a vintage Chelsea team, but there are enough match-winners in the side to take care of Tottenham if Spurs don’t bring it. Its the first game at their temporary home too. A less than stellar performance will proliferate the dumb narrative that Spurs can’t win at Wembley, which is already annoying to write. The difference between a Premier League crown over the past two seasons has been Tottenham’s mediocre starts. A win against the defending champions would be an absolutely ideal start for this 2017-18 Spurs team.
How to Watch
Date/time: Sunday, 4:00 p.m. (UK), 11:00 a.m. ET (USA)
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, UK
Official: Anthony Taylor
TV: NBCSN (NBC Sports Live), Sky Sports Premier League, BBC Radio, Sky Go Uk, (UK), TSN5, TSN4, TSN1, TSNGO (Canada), Optus Sport (Australia), other listings at livesoccertv.com
Streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra (USA)
Radio: Audio streamed at tottenhamhotspur.com, also often at BBC Radio London,BBC Radio 5 Live, and TalkSport
Kieran Trippier, Georges-Kevin N’koudou, and Danny Rose remain sidelined to start the season, while Erik Lamela continues to rehab his hip. Kieran Trippier is the closest of those four to a return and will be assessed tomorrow. The absence of our first choice outside backs is suboptimal and elicits a selection conundrum for Mauricio Pochettino on Sunday.
With Victor Wanyama and Heung-Min Son healthy, I’d guess that Poch will revert back to our preferred 3-4-3. The only position then that is in question is the right wing-back spot. Kyle Walker-Peters had a promising debut and is the most likely of candidates, but will Poch trust the twenty year-old against Chelsea? The other two potential starters out wide would be Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-Min. Sonny deputized at the left wing-back position in the FA Cup semifinals last year against Chelsea and didn’t have the most comfortable of outings. Moussa Sissoko’s directness and athleticism could be useful, but his general form and defensive ineptitude would be a risk.
It’s for this reason that I think Kyle Walker-Peters gets the nod. Poch has never been shy to give young players the chance and I think Sonny’s match fitness is questionable, along with the fact that he is a great option to change the game off the bench.
Thus, Hugo will start in net with a center-back trio of Dier, Toby, and Jan. Kyle Walker-Peters will start out right, with Ben Davies starting out left. Victor Wanyama will pair with Mousa Dembélé in center midfield, while Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, and Harry Kane will form the attack.
Dustin Menno and I dropped a perfect 2-0 scoreline on Sunday. Its a thrill to feel like, even for a fleeting moment, that I am an equal to the Tyrannical Overlord himself. Its probably a fortnight in the cage for a comment like that. Skipjack, Alex Greenberg, GN Punk, Pardeep Cattry, Joe Patrick, and Salmon Chase all predicted wins too. The marathon has begun.
Cartilage Free Captain Prediction League Standings 2017-18
|Earl of Shoop||0|
Dustin Menno: Chelsea had a pretty lol loss at home to Burnley and are without a bunch of players including Pedro and Hazard, but they still have a lot of talent and it’s still going to get ugly. 1-1 draw, with two red cards and three concussions.
Matthew Pachniuk: Everybody has had hype in the offseason and Spurs have had none. On average though, this has been the best team in the Premier League over the past two years. Its a statement game and Tottenham will come to play. Spurs 2-1.
Jake Meador: 1-1. We mostly dominate the game, but can't put it away. Commence #WembleyNarrative
Joe Patrick: 3-1 Spurs, though I think it will be a much closer game than that suggests. We add one after 85' to kill it.
Pardeep Cattry: Chelsea are down to half their squad after the many injuries and suspensions, and despite Spurs being thin, they've still got close to a first choice team. Tottenham 2-1.
GN Punk: 3-1 Spurs. Kane gets a brace. Eriksen gets the insurance goal. Poch does the D-X suck it chop to Conte.
Skipjack: 1-1 Spurs keep trying to replace Chelsea in the top four but Chelsea have done too much on paper to be dismissed. Despite lots of people online claiming that Spurs are the future I don't think they're accounting for the proven longevity of Chelsea.
Bryan A: My quest for zero points is off to a great start. Who knew it would be screwed up by a match against Chelsea. I'll say 2-0 to Chelsea, because, why not?
Ed F: I will be very mad if we don't win this. 2-0 Spurs.
Nathan Giannini: All of Chelsea's players are either injured, suspended or whatever Diego Costa is. Spurs take advantage and sneak a 2-1 win.
Alex Greenberg: TBD
Salmon Chase: I feel confident, and that's not good. [Ed: insert extended, slightly risqué metaphor involving a nude burlesque dancer here. It’s funny, but y’know, I can’t. Sorry, Salmon.] 0-0 draw.
Earl of Shoop: 2-1 Chelsea. The loss against this diminished Blues side is embarrassing enough to force our hand on the Ross Barkley move. He doesn't make an appearance for us in the 17-18 season.