Tottenham Hotspur begin a tough week of fixtures with a trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in the Premier League on Wednesday (20:00 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Over the course of the next seven days, Spurs face Chelsea away and then Arsenal at home in the league before then travelling to Germany for the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 encounter with Borussia Dortmund.
If things had been more tightly poised on both fronts, it would have been the sort of run capable of making or derailing a campaign. As it is, Spurs have enough of a cushion in both to approach the fixtures with caution rather than dread. In the league, they are eight points clear of fifth. In Europe, they will carry a 3-0 advantage into the return leg.
That isn’t to say that Mauricio Pochettino and his side will be complacent ahead of the pair of London derbies that first await them. After all, with both Liverpool and Manchester City still to play, and on the back of a 1-2 defeat away to Burnley on Saturday, eight points wouldn’t necessarily provide that much of a safety net were they to lose to a pair of direct rivals.
The loss to Burnley probably ended any chance Spurs had of launching a late title push. Certainly that was the opinion that a frustrated Pochettino expressed afterwards. Realistically, they would now have to win each and every one of their remaining 11 matches, including those against City and Liverpool. Given that their longest winning streak so far this season stands at five matches, that seems unlikely.
The focus now will be on consolidating their position in third and trying to put together a deep run in the Champions League, their only remaining cup involvement. As players such as top scorer Harry Kane, responsible for their goal against Burnley, return from injury and others such as Dele Alli close in on comebacks, Spurs should be well-placed to achieve both.
Whether they will be capable of overcoming Chelsea on Wednesday remains to be seen. In what has generally been a tough time of it for the Blues since the turn of the year, they were nevertheless able to eliminate Spurs on penalties after a 2-2 aggregate draw over the two legs of their Carabao Cup semi-final last month. That happened despite Spurs overrunning them in a clear 3-1 victory when the sides met in the league in November.
Chelsea’s reward for progressing to the final was a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday. Most of the talk in the lead up to the fixture had been of the future of coach Maurizio Sarri, who was coming under increasing pressure on the back of three defeats in his side’s last four in the league and their rather sedate exit from the FA Cup. A repeat of the 0-6 thrashing they received from City in the league would reportedly have seen him depart.
Instead, Chelsea produced a very solid performance to hold City goalless through both normal and extra time and even create a few chances to have won the game before it went to penalties. Not only were they defeated by that method, by a score of 3-4, but Sarri’s authority was also brought into question late in extra time when starting goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga seemingly refused to be substituted for Willy Caballero.
Sarri, visibly angered at the time, put the incident down to an innocent communication breakdown in his post-match press conference. That could very well have been the case, but it was the nevertheless the sort of imagery on which perceptions often turn. The display was good enough to have earned him the opportunity to continue at the helm of Chelsea’s battle to secure a top-four finish. That wasn’t, though, the story most took away from the match.
Our Preview’s Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur Betting Tips Verdict
All eyes will be on Sarri and his goalkeeper when Chelsea come out onto the Stamford Bridge turf on Wednesday. Tottenham won there for the first time since 1990 by recording a 3-1 victory in last season’s equivalent fixture and have already shown themselves capable of defeating Chelsea this season. If the visitors are near their best, and Chelsea play closer to their average level this calendar year than they did on Sunday, Spurs could well win again.
- Back Tottenham Hotspur to win @ 21/10 with Bet365.
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