In preparing for this preview, I had the distinct displeasure of having to go back and re-watch extended highlights of the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Spurs’ stadium on December 22, a match that ended in a 2-0 Blues win. It wasn’t fun. You’ll remember it if, like me, you hadn’t blocked all the gory details from your mind. Here are the lowlights:
- Serge Aurier getting absolutely rinsed by Willian on the wing before firing into the bottom right corner to put Chelsea up in the 12th minute
- Paulo Gazzaniga, in for the injured Hugo Lloris, landing a flying karate kick into the chest of Marcos Alonso, earning a penalty just before halftime which Willian converted to put Chelsea up by two
- Chelsea putting Spurs’ back line to the sword and nearly making it three before Tammy Abraham’s goal was called back for offside
- Son Heung-Min getting fouled by Antonio Rudiger and then kicking out at him, giving him a VAR-assisted red card for violent conduct
- Rudiger alleging racist conduct by Tottenham fans (who also threw things on the pitch), allegations that were later dismissed for lack of evidence for or against
Not great, Bob!
And now here we are, the return fixture at Stamford Bridge coming in two days, and yet another Spurs-Chelsea match loaded with narrative and potential promise, but also no small bit of trepidation. Under Jose Mourinho, Tottenham have clawed their way back into the top four conversation and face a true six-pointer against Chelsea, who are just one point ahead after losing at home to Manchester United this past weekend. But that was before Son Heung-Min broke his arm against Aston Villa.
So now Spurs face the prospect of a critical away match against a hated opponent that could have massive Champions League qualification implications with a squad that is missing its two best offensive players and is coming off of a pretty anemic offensive performance against RB Leipzig. Oh, and Chelsea are smarting from the United loss and definitely won’t want to lose two home matches to league rivals.
Narrative, anyone? Someone hold me.
There’s some good news for Spurs — in many ways Chelsea are almost as critically injured as Tottenham. Ngolo Kante is out and defender Andreas Christensen is also a doubt after both picked up injuries against United. Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are also either out or extemely unlikely to play. Presumably Mason Mount will come in for Kante, though Frank Lampard might opt for someone like Ross Barkley, and we’re likely going to see Michy Batshuayi up top for the Blues.
I’d like to say that will make a difference, but it never seems to, does it?
How will Tottenham line up at Chelsea?
Tottenham’s lineup options are limited against Chelsea, but we got a pretty good look at what the basic game plan will be in Spurs’ Champions League match against RB Leipzig. That plan: counterattack. It didn’t work particularly well in the first half against Leipzig, but that had as much to do with the gaping vacuous hole in the middle of the pitch where Spurs’ midfield was supposed to be as it was the relative efficacy of what remains of the attacking corps. Things looked a lot more hopeful in the last 30 minutes.
But even without Son and Kane, Tottenham can still be a dangerous threat on the counter. Steven Bergwijn appears to have the skills to pay the bills, as it were, and while Lucas can’t be counted on to regularly hit the broad side of the barn, he can at least dribble it towards the cows. Dele, meanwhile, needs to see someone about his shooting boots, and perhaps an anger management counselor, but we know he has goals in him, as we’ve seen them before.
There aren’t many changes to the lineup which I think would drastically improve Tottenham from the XI that started against Leipzig, but there are a couple. Japhet Tanganga really, really, really needs to start at left back against Chelsea over Ben Davies, and I would also bring in Tanguy Ndombele in place of Gedson Fernandes. Fitness be damned, this is a match we need to win and we seem to always play better when he’s in the side. Insert thinky emoji here.
That’s my predicted lineup for Tottenham Hotspur’s match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. What’s yours?