The Champions League race will come into focus on Thursday as Chelsea make the short trip to face Tottenham in a London derby. Both of these teams will have ambition of finishing as the highest placed London club at the end of the season and this fixture will be vital in determining which one is favourite to do so. There has been unrest among Spurs’ supporters about the recent performances and they have been compounded by the injury suffered by Harry Kane. That said, Jose Mourinho will be hungry to get one over on the latest man in the Chelsea dugout, Thomas Tuchel.
Tottenham are six points off the top four, but they do have a game in hand over the teams from 2nd to 5th. Their last two matches have ended in defeat, which has increased concerns among their supporters. The performance against Brighton wasn’t good enough and they were somewhat fortunate to only lose by a one goal margin. There needs to be a reaction and there would be nothing better than beating their London rivals. Excluding their two defeats to Liverpool, they have a good record against the traditional top six teams this season. That will give them confidence that they can pick up three points.
It has been a promising start for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, as they have taken four points from his first two matches, with two clean sheets. The opposition hasn’t been the toughest and a lot more will be learned on Thursday. A victory would see the Blues move above Tottenham in the league table. That would provide them with some justification for the managerial change, as it would suggest that Tuchel has got them going in the right direction. There is still a lot to learn about the direction that the German wants the team to go in, but more information will be available following this match.
Tottenham have lost four of their last eight Premier League matches. Their previous four defeats came across 28 matches in the competition.
Thomas Tuchel is the first Chelsea manager to oversee clean sheets in their first two matches in charge since Rafael Benitez in 2012.
The South Korean is vital to the immediate future for Tottenham, as he is the standout player in Kane’s absence. There was previously a belief that he performed better in the striker’s absence, but there excellent relationship this season proved that incorrect. That said, he is an excellent player and he is capable of producing match-winning moments without his partner in the team. Chelsea do struggle in defensive transition. There has been improvement under Tuchel, but they haven’t been fully tested yet. The re-introduction of Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso into the team should encourage Tottenham, as they lack the pace to deal with Son. Tuchel is an intelligent coach and he may choose to recall Reece James to deal with Son. The 28-year-old hasn’t scored in four Premier League games. There will be an appetite to get back to scoring ways and help his team pick up a crucial three points. Without Kane, he is the star and Chelsea will be aware of that.
It is difficult to get a handle on the Chelsea team under Tuchel. There have been changes made to the team, but Hudson-Odoi seems to have favour. Frank Lampard was praised for his management of young players, but Hudson-Odoi was one of the few not to make big strides under the club legend. For the majority of the academy graduates, the change of manager may be considered a bad thing. James has been restricted to a role from the bench, while Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham started just one of the matches. Hudson-Odoi has started both matches as a right wing-back. On the team-sheet, he may have been listed as a defender, but it was a defensive role in name only. The young attacker was the most advanced player for long periods of both matches. Against Burnley, he registered an assist and made four key passes. It was an excellent attacking performance and he was withdrawn early. Tuchel likely had one eye on Thursday and he will be the player that can cause real damage, due to Tottenham’s defensive issues.
Chelsea don’t have any major injury concerns. N’Golo Kante was back on the bench at the weekend and he could be brought into the starting eleven. Marcos Alonso could be in line to remain in the team after an impressive performance against Burnley.
Harry Kane and Sergio Reguilon are both a few weeks away from a return to action. Giovani Lo Celso and Dele Alli will both also be missing for the visitors.
This is going to be a fascinating battle on the touchline. The early indications are that Tuchel will employ a possession-based approach as manager of Chelsea. Mourinho has shown throughout his managerial career that he wants to play counter-attacking football. The visitors are likely to dominate possession, but that could play into Spurs’ hands, as there will be space to play on the counter. Son Heung-min will be crucial in determining the outcome of this match. If he performs well, a home win is very possible.
Tottenham 1-0 Chelsea