The Premier League has another round of midweek matches, with the highlight coming at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea welcome Tottenham. It is a game of huge proportions at the top of the table, with both teams needing a win for differing reasons. The pressure is on the hosts and especially their manager Maurizio Sarri after the Carabao Cup final. The Italian can’t suffer another defeat in a big game. It would be his third in just over a week. Meanwhile, the visitors need a victory to revive their slim chances of a title challenge.
Chelsea performed well in the Carabao Cup final and the game plan worked for the most part. That was until Kepa Arrizabalaga decided to show insubordination on the pitch and that killed the momentum that the team had built going into the penalty shootout. It remains unclear whether the substitution was for tactical or injury reasons, but whichever it was, the goalkeeper should have left the field. It highlighted the problems that have resonated at the club for a long time and likely spells the beginning of the end for Sarri. It will be interesting to see if the goalkeeper responsible for the controversy will be dropped on Wednesday.
Tottenham fell to a disappointing defeat against Burnley at the weekend, which will be looked back on as a missed opportunity. They could have closed the gap on Liverpool and really put themselves into the title picture. That said, the fact that Jurgen Klopp’s team didn’t win means that the loss to Burnley wasn’t terminal for Spurs’ title hopes. They still have an outside chance and a dominant performance this Wednesday will send a statement of intent.
- Chelsea kept a clean sheet against Manchester City for the second time this season. It was only the third time Pep Guardiola’s team failed to score during this campaign.
- Tottenham’s loss to Burnley was only their second defeat in their last eight away matches.
The Frenchman was one of the standout players during the Carabao Cup final and he proved his quality as one of the best midfielders in the league. There has been criticism of Sarri due to the way that he has used the former Leicester City man, but he is proving to be effective in every role he is being used in. This is a good opportunity for him to receive the plaudits in a big game again, as Tottenham have problems in their midfield. They miss the dominating presence that they once had in Mousa Dembele and there will be a chance for the Frenchman to stand out in central areas. If he manages to do that, Chelsea will have a platform to get Eden Hazard on the ball in dangerous areas and he can cause real damage. Although he is known for his defensive qualities, the 27-year-old has shown improvement in his attacking play. He has contributed three goals and four assists in the Premier League and he could be a factor in the attacking half if he is afforded space.
It has been a fairly quiet season for Christian Eriksen, but he remains a massively influential figure for Tottenham and there will be hope that he can step up to contribute more over the coming weeks. The change of role hasn’t helped him produce in the final third, as he is quite often having to play in a deeper position. One reason for this has been the form of Son Heung-min, but another is the lack of options in central midfield. Although he is better in a more advanced position, he is effective in central midfield and the team are having to rely on him there. His reading of the game and his quality on the ball will be important on Wednesday, as this Chelsea defence is far from solid. They performed on Sunday, but they conceded ten goals across two matches against Bournemouth and Manchester City not so long ago. There will be space for Eriksen to create and cause problems on Wednesday.
Kepa may be dropped following his antics against Manchester City, but it would be a surprise given Sarri’s post-match comments. Willy Cabellero would be the player to come in if a change is made. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi will be pushing for starts after impressive sub appearances. Gonzalo Higuain will also be hoping to be recalled to the starting eleven.
Ben Davies is now available after being named on the bench at the weekend. Harry Kane also returned in that fixture and will be hoping to have a big impact against a top-six rival. Dele Alli remains on the sidelines with injury.
This is a huge game for both teams, as they each need a win. Chelsea are now in 6th position and their Champions League hopes are decreasing week-by-week. It is amazing to think they were considered title contenders at the beginning of the season, as they have fallen a long way behind the top three. For Tottenham, they have shown good mentality to bounce back from defeats in the past and they will go into this fixture with confidence following the way that the Carabao Cup final ended. It is difficult to see Sarri saving his career at Stamford Bridge following that. For that reason, an away win is likely on Wednesday.
Chelsea 1-2 Tottenham