A Harry Kane-less Tottenham Hotspur advanced to the FA Cup semi-finals with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Swansea last time out. The big story before the international break, remains the big story after the international break — how serious is Harry Kane’s ankle injury. The combination of social media posts and positive comments by the likes of Gareth Southgate and Mauricio Pochettino makes Kane’s return look imminent, but Europe’s leading scorer probably won’t be available for Sunday.
Spurs head to Stamford Bridge in a strong position in the table. With eight matches to play, Spurs have accumulated sixty-one points and are in sole possession of fourth place in the Premier League table. Tottenham sit four points behind second placed Manchester United and two points behind third placed Liverpool, though Spurs have a game in hand over the Merseysiders. Tottenham are, wait for it, thirteen points ahead of Arsenal, which is grandly satisfying but, more importantly, five points ahead of Chelsea. Sunday’s match has massive implications for Tottenham’s 2018-19 Champions League ambitions.
If there has been a thorn in the side of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur over the past few years it has been Chelsea F.C. While Spurs have conjured a few memorable victories over their London rivals, the two most disappointing results in each of the last two campaigns have come against Chelsea in the spring. Two years ago the Battle of the Bridge all but ended Spurs Premier League title hopes, while last year’s FA Cup semi-final 4-2 defeat was really the end of meaningful games for the club that season, not to mention a big chance at a long sought after trophy. In short, Chelsea has brought the club a lot of pain over the past two years.
Sunday’s match has all the intrigue necessary for a potential classic. If Spurs win, they likely secure a top four place with ease. If Chelsea wins, nothing will be decided until the final match-day of the 2017-18 season. Yet when looking at Chelsea, there are some reasons to be optimistic. In general, Antonio Conte’s side has never really found its footing this term. While their championship core from last year is still in tact, they’ve failed to find a rhythm. The most obvious issue has been the departure of Diego Costa. Alvaro Morata has failed to live up to expectations, forcing Conte to play a false nine in important matches and while Olivier Giroud hasn’t been bad since his signing from Arsenal, he is neither Diego Costa, nor what they though Morata would be. They also haven’t properly replaced Nemanja Matic. The failures of Morata might grab the headlines, but Matic’s absence in midfield might be the larger issue at play.
Willian has had a fine season and Eden Hazard is still mercurial when he wants to be, but what has kept Chelsea relevant this season is their defense. They are tied with Spurs for third place in the Prem in clean sheets and also aren’t too far behind the top sides in terms of goals against. Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen have featured heavily and done well, along with older stalwarts Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, Victor Moses, and Marcos Alonso, it is a steady group. Thibaut Courtois remains one of the world’s finest goalkeepers too.
Marquee matchups in the earlier parts of the season bring excitement, matches like these pour concrete on final positions in the table. If Spurs can leave Stamford Bridge with a point or maybe even three, they have are in an enviable spot for the remainder of the Premier League calendar.
How to Watch
Date/time: Sunday, 4:00 p.m. (UK), 11:00 a.m. ET (USA)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, UK
Official: Andre Marriner
TV: NBCSN (NBC Sports Live Extra), BBC Radio, SKY GO Extra, NOW TV, Sky Sports Premier League, BBC Radio 5 Live, Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Go UK (UK), TSN3, TSN1, TSN GO, TSN4, TSN5 (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
Save a miracle, Harry Kane isn’t playing on Sunday. Though a miracle would be welcomed. Kane will sit out the match with the other Harry in the squad. Harry Winks continues to grapple with an ankle injury that has devastated the majority of his season.
The big question here is Toby’s health and/or his standing with Poch. Last year I would have bet a few bucks that Poch and Kyle Walker’s internal feud would subside for the FA Cup semi-final and our marauding right-back would be rightfully reinstated to the team. I was wrong and Walker’s end with Tottenham Hotspur was already in the books at that point. Though it feels like maybe the Toby / Poch situation isn’t as bad, you have to bet that Poch can hold a grudge and won’t be the one to flinch. Either way, Sunday’s starting eleven will probably determine whether or not Toby is playing for Spurs next season.
Here is my starting eleven that doesn't include Toby, Harry, and Danny (though I really wish it did). Hugo will start in net with Serge Aurier and Ben Davies starting at the outside backs spots, while Jan and Davinson will start in the middle. Eric Died and Moose will roam the double pivot, with Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli forming the attacking band. Sonny will start up front and continue to be the greatest human being on planet earth.
Everybody predicted a win, nobody predicted a 4-1 scoreline. Things remain unchanged at the top. Menno with a two point lead and a slow asphyxiation of the group.
Cartilage Free Captain Prediction League Standings 2017-18
|Earl of Shoop||18|
Dustin Menno: I really, really, really, really hate this match. 3-1 Chelsea.
Matthew Pachniuk: It has all the feels of great disappointment, but I choose optimism. Chelsea have our number, but they also haven’t been very good of late. Sonny is a stud and can do a job and who is going to work harder than Erik Lamlea. Spurs win in unlikely circumstances and break the 28 year curse 2-1.
GN Punk: We do not win at Stamford Bridge. I’ll take a draw, though. 2-2.
Pardeep Cattry: Chelsea will score once at the beginning and once at the end, while Spurs will come close on multiple occasions in between the two goals. Chelsea 2-0.
Jake Meador: 1-1.
Skipjack: 3-1 Chelsea. Our value is crashing.
Earl of Shoop: 2-1 Chelsea. We’ll score one sad little goal, maybe off Gary Cahill’s face if we’re lucky. But we’re not really ever in this one, lads.
Ed F: Chuck Felsea. But also 2-1 Chelsea.
Salmon Chase: Two questions: 1. How am I still allowed to do this? 2. What’s a worse investment, the bitcoin I bought in December or betting on Spurs to win? 2-0 Chelsea. (Writer’s Note — HODL).
Alex Greenberg: 0-0. And that will be totally fine for us.
Nathan Giannini: As always, f*** Chelsea. 1-1 draw.
Joe Patrick: 1-0 Chelsea in a game that will be terrible to watch.
Joel Wertheimer: 2-1 Spurs. Sonny with the brace.
Bryan A: TBD