Tottenham have the opportunity to get into the top four before Christmas, as they face Chelsea on Sunday. This match will be the most anticipated fixture this weekend, due to the narrative to go alongside the battle on the pitch. Frank Lampard will face his former manager Jose Mourinho for the second time in his short managerial career. The current Tottenham boss is a Blues’ legend as he won the club their first league title in 50 years during his first season over a decade ago. The relationship between himself and the supporters has soured since. There will certainly be motivation on both sides to come out on top this weekend.
Jose Mourinho would have been targeting a top four finish following his appointment at Tottenham. However, he wouldn’t have expected to be in a position to move into those positions before the turn of the year. That shows the differing fortunes of these two clubs in the past few weeks. Spurs have started to rebuild a winning mentality, as best shown by their win over Wolves last weekend. They were not the better team on the day, but they managed to get the job done and that is the hallmark of a Mourinho team. Despite their improvement under him, their performance against Manchester United a few weeks ago was below par. They will be hoping for a much more complete display on Sunday.
Chelsea are on a poor run of form, having lost four of their last five Premier League matches. Despite this, they remain in the top four and a victory on Sunday would consolidate their position. This season was always seen as one of transition for the Blues, but their performances have been impressive on the whole. The main issue in previous weeks has been poor finishing. They should have beaten West Ham United and Bournemouth based on the chances that they created. According to Infogol, they created 5.54 expected goals (xG) in the two matches combined, but they failed to find the back of the net once. That is a worrying trend in home matches for the Blues. Lampard will be hoping that this match being away from home benefits his team.
Chelsea have only managed to win two of their last 13 away matches against Tottenham.
Jose Mourinho has never lost a home fixture against a side that he has previously managed. In fact, he has dropped points only once in 13 matches.
Many expected Dele Alli to be one of the main beneficiaries of the Tottenham managerial change, due to Mourinho’s impressive ability to get the best out of number tens. This has been the case throughout his career, while his work with Sunday’s opposing manager is one of the best examples. Since the change in manager, the England international has contributed four goals and three assists, as he has been encouraged to get closer to Harry Kane in attack. His record against Chelsea has been very good since his arrival in North London, which will give him further encouragement going into the weekend. He has six goals and two assists in seven matches against the Blues. The space that Chelsea leave in the final third could play into Alli’s hands and he could once again play a starring role in this fixture.
There could be a change in tactics from Lampard for this game, with the option to set up with N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in midfield. It is likely that he will do this, as he has done so in tough away matches previously. If he does go for this set-up, the impetus will be on Kante to perform and dominate the central areas. His ball-winning ability and energy is well known. Meanwhile, he has added attacking threat to his game and this is especially important in the big games. The Frenchman managed to score away to Manchester City earlier this season following a driving run in behind the defence. Tottenham’s biggest issues lie in the centre of the park and this is the area that the visitors must dominate in order to take three points. Kante will be key to those hopes.
Tanguy Ndombele is a doubt for the home side, but Michel Vorm is available against. Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies and Erik Lamela remain on the sidelines.
Fikayo Tomori could be back to start in the centre of defence alongside Antonio Rudiger. Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains out, but Olivier Giroud could return to the match day squad.
Both teams will be looking at this fixture as an opportunity to make a statement. Chelsea have been impressive in the big matches this season without picking up a big victory. This is partly due to their open style of play. Once a team plays through their aggressive press, there is space to exploit in the final third and the very best teams can take advantage of this. Their opening day mauling by Manchester United was evidence of this. There has been improvement since then, but it remains an issue that Tottenham will look to exploit. Taking the recent results of the two teams, a home win looks a good bet.
Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea