HomeTeams - PLChelseaSpurs 0 Chelsea 0: Battle at the Lane

Spurs 0 Chelsea 0: Battle at the Lane

A nil nil draw at White Hart Lane, would suggest that Chelsea are still on the recovery trail. Mourinho’s wards have now gone three games unbeaten and currently sit fourteenth in the league. In what some would say was a fairly pulsating game of football the final result didn’t necessarily convey the full frantic drama this London derby delivered to viewers of the affair.

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Spurs’ head coach Pochettino decided to go with eight of the players who started their mid-week Europa league encounter with Azerbaijani team Qarabag, and having only arrived back in England at 4.30am on Friday, Spurs may have been excused if they had capitulated to a Chelsea team looking to get their campaign to defend their title back on track. However, that was far from the reality. Although Chelsea did threaten to overrun them in the first half and Spurs did look like they did not quite have the legs to play at their usual high pace, they showed resilience and weathered the storm. Spurs seem to be made of far sterner stuff this season.

Chelsea lined up with no recognised striker. Diego Costa having been unceremoniously relegated to the bench after his mid-week spat with Mourinho. That is despite the latter’s assertions that they had retired to the changing rooms for kisses and cuddles and all was well. We all know the special one cannot be trifled with, the last person who did that is now out of a job, had her professional ability questioned publicly and is now seeking legal redress against both Mourinho and his employers.

When Costa did not warm-up with the rest of his team-mates ahead of kick-off against Spurs, perhaps it should have triggered alarm bells and given onlookers an indication that all was not quite right. The poor form the Blues have displayed this season have been attributed to many factors and there have been widespread rumours of dressing room unrest. Matt Law from The Telegraph even speculated that ‘having pondered a move away from Stamford Bridge in the summer, Costa may well decide he wants to quit England at the end of this season and Chelsea will not necessarily stand in his way.’

We may have been forgiven for thinking that without a recognised front man the Blues would have been toothless in attack, but in reality Eden Hazard put in possibly his best performance of the season. He worked hard and admirably led the line. It was Hazard who came closest to breaking the deadlock heading over when he surged into the box to meet a well-placed cross from Oscar in the first half before seeing a snap volley brilliantly saved by Hugo Lloris in the second.

Spurs also had their fair share of chances, their first opportunity coming in the second minute, Moussa Dembele feeding Danny Rose down the left and a combination of Begovic and Gary Cahill managed to stop the onrushing Harry Kane from converting at the near post.

Tottenham continued to carry a threat. Their best opportunity fell to Heung-Min Son on the hour but his close range header was kept out by Asmir Begovic. Kane and Ryan Mason had combined down the right before the former swung in a cross to the far post. Son was unmarked but headed straight at Begovic with the goal at his mercy.

The frantic pace continued and as Spurs’ mid-week excursion to Qarabag started to have an impact and legs grew weary, Chelsea started to assert some dominance on proceedings, constantly seeking to exploit Tottenham’s high defensive line. Despite having more and more of the ball towards the end of the game the Blues were unable to find the all-important breakthrough.

Given Chelsea’s need for a goal, it wouldn’t have seemed strange if Mourinho decided to go through Costa on in the closing stages of the match, but he chose to bring on Kennedy and even Loftus-Cheek instead of Costa and this provided the spark to set off Costa’s infamous short fuse. Costa figuring out that he wouldn’t be coming walked back to the Chelsea dugout, removing his bib and throwing it over his shoulder in petulant disgust, narrowly missing Mourinho in the process. A clear sign of his unhappiness at not being involved. His team mates Obi Mikel and Baba Rahman tried desperately to stifle their mirth at the situation but clearly with the number of cameras and technology present at matches today their attempts were futile.

So the question has to be asked. What happens now? Clearly Mourinho and Costa are not currently seeing eye to eye. Can the relationship be salvaged? What is the impact of this on the rest of the squad? Mourinho may try to defuse the media frenzy by joking it out, but it’s plain to see that one of the most important components of the usually well-oiled Chelsea machine is malfunctioning. The passion and aggression normally directed at opposition defenders is now being directed at the Chelsea manager and with January just round the corner and the pressures on and off the pitch faced by Mourinho, it may just be that a clash of egos with Costa is a bridge to far. Certainly not a battle Chelsea need right now.

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