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Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur (Sunday, 23 January)
The relationship between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur has been largely one-sided in the last 30 years or so, with the west Londoners winning most of the meetings with their rivals from the north of the city.
The sides have clashed three times already in 2021/22 and Chelsea has won every time, racking up an aggregate score of 6-0. Their dominance was clear in the underlying statistics too, with Thomas Tuchel’s team having won the shot count across the three games by 24, the on-target tallies by 12 and creating eight clear-cut chances while only allowing two in return.
However, this is not to say that Tottenham has no chance here as there are a couple of things working in their favour.
Most importantly, they are in better form in the league over the last six matches, with Chelsea having seen their title challenge collapse through drawing far too many times since their win over Leeds in mid-December.
And aside from (inevitably) Manchester City, Tottenham are the only unbeaten team in the Premier League for the period since former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was put in charge.
By switching his new side to his preferred 3-4-3 formation, the Italian has overseen an immediate defensive improvement. Tottenham kept five clean sheets in his first eight league matches and only conceded four goals in those games.
The other fact to give Spurs and their supporters hope ahead of this match is Chelsea’s curious home record in home league games against the other proposed members of the ill-fated European Super League since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard.
The Blues have hosted one of the other clubs from within the Premier League’s ‘big six’ five times in the last 12 months, and they have only three draws and two defeats to show for their efforts. What’s more, they didn’t lead in any of those games either.
Ignore the 7-0 romp against relegation battlers Norwich City and Chelsea hasn’t led by more than one goal in any of their last eight league games at Stamford Bridge, save for the final minute of their 3-1 win over Southampton.
In other words, they have been incapable of killing sides off when at home and visiting teams have usually remained in with a chance of a positive result until the final whistle.
None of this is to say Chelsea can’t win with room to spare on Sunday. They brushed Tottenham aside easily enough in the Carabao Cup, after all, and they own the third-best defensive record in the division. Chances are likely to be at a premium for Conte’s boys, but it would not be a shock if this is another close match at the Bridge.
The one to watch: Romelu Lukaku
There’s no dressing it up, Romelu Lukaku has a curiously poor record against Tottenham Hotspur, having scored just one goal against them despite facing them on 16 occasions in the past.
The Belgian hasn’t achieved too much in league matches between two of England’s big six clubs either. In two seasons with Manchester United, Lukaku only scored once – against Chelsea, funnily enough – and he bagged a goal against Arsenal on his second debut for the Blues earlier this season. But that’s it.
This feels like a particularly big game for the £97.5m man. It isn’t that he hasn’t scored since returning from his last injury, as he was on the mark against both Aston Villa and Brighton over the festive period.
But Lukaku was dropped for the 2-2 draw with Liverpool due to off-field issues and missed Chelsea’s only chance of note in their loss at Manchester City last weekend. A goal here could work wonders for him.
Despite being a London derby, the matches between Chelsea and Tottenham haven’t been too fractious this season, with only two yellow cards being shown across the 270 minutes of action.
Perhaps that’s because the Blues won each time with minimal fuss? Spurs’ inability to lay much of a glove on them in recent years – they’ve failed to score in the last five meetings – means it’s impossible to look past another win for Chelsea here.
It should be close though. Conte’s Tottenham generally concede very few goals while their opponents here have been struggling to score in the last couple of months. Spurs made some appalling defensive mistakes in the recent cup clashes so if they can cut those out then they may even retain realistic hopes of earning a point.
But whether it’s Lukaku who wins the day for the home side or not, they should be able to win by the odd goal.
Premier League Picks:
- Chelsea to win by one goal (+265)
- Chelsea to win and under 2.5 goals (+300)
- Both teams to score, no (+100)
- Romelu Lukaku to score first (+430)
- Under 3.5 cards (TBC)
Premier League Quick Picks:
- Watford vs Norwich City: Josh King to score (+175)
- Everton vs Aston Villa: Both teams to score (-120)
- Brentford vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: Draw (+210)
- Manchester United vs West Ham United: West Ham to win (+300)
- Leeds United vs Newcastle United: Leeds win and both teams to score (+265)
- Southampton vs Manchester City: Manchester City to win by two goals (+320)
- Crystal Palace vs Liverpool: Both teams to score (-133)
- Arsenal vs Burnley: Arsenal to win to nil (+140)
- Leicester City vs Brighton & Hove Albion: Brighton to win (+200)
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