Spurs are the visitors for a crunch Stamford Bridge showdown
Chelsea’s quest for Champions League football returns after two weeks away with a crucial home fixture against Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs currently sit five points ahead of Chelsea and remain the most likely candidate for the Blues to leapfrog if they are to make it into the Top Four. Three points at Stamford Bridge on Sunday would help Antonio Conte and his men recover their awful winter period and put the visitors under immense pressure (oh, the irony).
Chelsea will have to assess the fitness of both Thibaut Courtois and Andreas Christensen after they picked up knocks on international duty. David Luiz is still unavailable. Ross Barkley has been training in recent days but this crunch match will come too soon for the January signing, who will play in the Development Squad’s game on Saturday. Harry Kane is facing a race against time to be fit for Sunday after picking up an ankle injury last month but Toby Alderweireld is fit to play.
Probable Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Hazard, Morata, Pedro.
Probable Tottenham XI (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dembele, Dier; Sissoko, Alli, Eriksen; Son.
In the likely absence of Harry Kane, Heung-min Son will be tasked with playing the lone striker for the visitors and he’s done a good job of it recently. Darting runs in behind and impressive link-up play make him a different option for Spurs up front and he’ll cause problems for the Chelsea back line and has scored at Stamford Bridge before.
Against the physical midfield of Dembele, Dier and Wanyama, Cesc Fabregas will have to be disciplined without possession while providing his usual attacking creativity while on the ball. He’s struggled against tougher midfield opponents in the past but proved his worth in the first leg against Barcelona where he and N’Golo Kante ran the show. Marcos Alonso’s double won the reverse fixture at Wembley back in August and, having won his first cap for Spain in midweek, his confidence will be sky high come kick off on Sunday. Hugo Lloris better watch out if the Blues get a free kick within shooting distance because the left wing-back is deadly from that sort of position.
Chelsea haven’t lost to Spurs at Stamford Bridge since 1990! Gary Lineker grabbed a late winner on that day in the old Division One. Dele Alli has scored three goals in his last three appearances against Chelsea but has just one goal in his last nine Premier League games. Eden Hazard has scored five times against Spurs in all competitions – more than any other current Chelsea player. This fixture at Stamford Bridge has seen 18 goals scored over the past five Premier League seasons with an aggregate score of 13-5 in the hosts’ favour.
Chelsea will look to hit the ground running after the international break and desperately need all three points against Spurs on Sunday, anything else and they’ll be staring Europa League football in the face.