On Saturday 24th March Tottenham travel west across London to play Chelsea in the lunchtime kick-off. Spurs will be hopeful of all three points, but in reality most fans would accept a draw before the game. It says a lot about the respective seasons of Chelsea and Spurs that a win is even considered. A few years ago, Chelsea were so strong at home that this fixture would be one to turn the telly over when Match of the Day comes on. In fact, in 19 Premier League meetings (Football didn’t really exist before 1992) Tottenham have never won at Stamford Bridge, and have been comprehensively outscored. An average score over the 19 games is 1.95 – 0.63 to Chelsea. Across all competitions it’s a win-less streak of 23 games away to Chelsea without a win for the lily-white.
The fact that Spurs go into this fixture not only above Chelsea on points in the league, but with realistic chance of getting a win (Perhaps a double negative “not unrealistic” would actually fit the bill better there) is a testament to the work of Harry Redknapp and his well-balanced squad.
Since AVB was handed his P45 (And a rather handsome payoff) Roberto Di Matteo has actually not changed that much. Despite the short length of AVB’s tenure at the Bridge, his tactics are well-known. The high pressing 4-3-3 of AVB has made way for RDM’s more common 4-2-3-1, although in truth not that much difference. Di Matteo still uses a converted striker in Sturridge on the right-wing, but the wingers are generally considered midfielders and not inside forwards now – they’re not as advanced. Sturridge has clearly had enough of being played as an inverted winger, and decided not to pass to whoever is playing in his coveted centre-forward position. An interesting way of playing yourself out of Euro 2012 contention… Up front, Torres has rediscovered how to coördinate foot and ball to make football, other than that there is no difference between how the two Chelsea managers set up. It’s just that one of them is alright by John Terry, whereas the other one didn’t really get on with him.
There are several interesting battles on Saturday – team selection dependant of course. Hopefully Redknapp will have learnt his lesson about playing Gareth Bale out of position. Harry is not renowned as a tactical genius, more of a man-manager and motivator, but he’s certainly no slouch in that department. Bale on the left will most likely prompt Di Matteo to opt for the more defensively sound Ivanovic over Bosingwa, if he’s fit after the knock against City – and that will be a key area of the pitch.
Next Page: A statistical look at Modric, Lennon, VDV and Bale.