The Premier League started with a bang last weekend. After the goal and card filled weekend, the second game week is upon us and it brings with itself a handful of interesting fixtures. But, out of the ten games, the marquee fixture has to be the London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. Spurs play their first Premier League home game at Wembley this weekend and they host the reigning champions.
When the fixture list was released in June, this must have looked like a daunting fixture for Spurs. Just the second game week of the season, first league home game in a ground that has decidedly been unfavorable for them, and that too against a team that seemed unbeatable last season. But looking at the fixture now, Spurs seem to be the stronger team at least for the time being. Much has been made of Spurs’ Wembley hoodoo (1 win, 2 draws, 6 losses since the 2008 League Cup final), but Sunday presents a great opportunity for Spurs to grab a win against the champions and embrace Wembley as their home.
Not even for a single game last season, did Chelsea look as much in disarray as they look at the start of this season. As if an AWOL striker and brewing trouble between the manager and the board was not enough, they started their title defense with a shocking defeat against Burnley at home. The squad was already stretched thin but the suspensions of Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas will be an immense test of Antonio Conte’s tactics and Chelsea’s squad depth. Last season, such a fixture at Wembley would have been a winnable game for Conte’s men. But on Sunday, Conte would be thankful if Chelsea leave Wembley with even a point.
For Spurs, Danny Rose remains out of favor and injured, while Erik Lamela and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou will also sit out the game due to their injuries. Spurs might give a late fitness test to Kieran Trippier but given the performance of Kyle Walker Peters last week, it might be deemed unnecessary. News is trickling in that Spurs have signed Ajax defender Davinson Sanchez but he is unlikely to feature on Sunday.
Chelsea have started this season with a flurry of red cards. Victor Moses served out his one match ban against Burnley and is now available. But Gary Cahill is suspended for three matches and Cesc Fabregas for one due to the cards they collected in the game last week. Pedro, Hazard and new signing Bakayoko, all are doubtful starters for Sunday but one or two of them could be risked as substitutes after late fitness tests. If Bakayoko is unavailable to start, Conte might have to move David Luiz to midfield and start both Christensen and Rudiger in central defense.
- Chelsea have lost just two of their last 17 league and cup games against Tottenham (W8, D7).
- This will be the first Premier League match played at Wembley Stadium – which will become the 58th different venue to a host game in the competition.
- Spurs could set a club record of 15 consecutive home league wins on Sunday. The longest winning streak at home in the top flight is Liverpool’s run of 21 victories in 1972. They are unbeaten at home since Southampton beat them at the White Hart Lane in May 2016.
- The last time Chelsea lost both of their opening two league games was in 1973 – with one of those defeats coming against Burnley.
- Seven of Antonio Conte’s eight defeats as Chelsea boss have come in London.
Generally, for London derbies, Mauricio Pochettino would look towards Harry Kane for inspiration on the field. The England striker is on the verge of scoring his 100th goal for Tottenham and has scored 18 of the 99in London derbies. But he is a late bloomer as far as the league season goes and has never scored a Premier League goal in August. If Kane’s August form does not improve, then Dele Alli is the next most likely player to contribute the goals that Spurs will need to overcome Chelsea. Alli scored 18 and assisted 7 goals last season and has already opened the account of goals for this season by scoring one against Newcastle last week. His pace and movement will be key in trying to overcome Chelsea’s defense.
For Chelsea, the responsibility of creating goal scoring opportunities and scoring from them will likely fall on the experienced Willian. Alvaro Morata will still take time to adjust to Premier League defenses and Hazard is a doubtful starter for Sunday. In his and Pedro’s probable absence, Willian will have to shoulder the responsibility of scoring a goal or two that can help his team take a point or three away from Wembley. It was Willian’s assist for Morata’s goal in the game against Burnley that lit a light of hope in the 2nd half last week. Along with his crosses and dribbles, Conte will be hoping that he can open his account in the goals tally as well.
Tottenham Hotspur have a great opportunity on Sunday to avenge the FA Cup semifinal defeat, which was also at Wembley. They go into the game with a more or less settled squad of comparable quality and have already shown how effective they can be once they switch on their style in the second half versus Newcastle. On the other hand, the Blues go into the game with too many distractions and absences. Spurs should be able to win their second consecutive home derby against Chelsea in the league.
Tottenham 2 – 1 Chelsea