Chelsea need to overturn their one-goal deficit from the first leg when they host Tottenham Hotspur in the return leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge on Thursday (19:45 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Spurs were 1-0 winners when they met at Wembley a couple of weeks ago. A first-half penalty from Harry Kane was the difference between the sides in a match in which Chelsea twice struck the post and probably created enough chances to have at least drawn.
It was a sufficiently strong performance to give Maurizio Sarri and his side confidence that they will be capable of reversing that disadvantage back on home soil. It was certainly a much better showing than in the earlier league match at Wembley, in which Spurs triumphed 3-1 in a dominant display that could easily have yielded a goal or two more.
Chelsea can also draw belief from the fact that the Spurs team who turn up at Stamford Bridge on Thursday will be shorn of a couple of their key attacking talents. Not only will Kane, their top scorer with 20 goals in all competitions this season, be absent through injury, but Heung-Min Son, scorer of seven goals in his last eight appearances, will also miss out due to his participation in the Asian Cup with South Korea.
Yet while there are certainly arguments that can be made in favour of Chelsea at least bringing the tie level on aggregate, it is also worth noting that after a good start to the season, they have had some struggles over the last couple of months. After going undefeated with 10 wins through their first 14 matches in domestic action, in the league and the two cup competitions, they have since won eight, drawn one and lost five.
The most recent defeat came away to Arsenal on Saturday. Their hosts had by far the better of the first half and went in two goals up at the interval. After the break, the onus was on Chelsea to push forward and create opportunities, but they singularly failed to do so as Arsenal held out to comfortably take the three points.
Chelsea’s offensive production has tailed off recently. Their lack of cutting edge may even put their possession of the final Champions League qualifying position in danger, with Arsenal and Manchester United now in close attendance. It is for that reason that they are so keen to complete the loan signing of Gonzalo Higuain, a prolific striker for Sarri during his time at Napoli.
As Chelsea lost one London derby, Tottenham moved four points ahead of them in third with victory in another away at Fulham. They went in behind at half-time thanks to a Fernando Llorente own goal. They rallied to equalise through Dele Alli early into the second half and then secure a last-gasp winner, when Harry Winks headed home from close range three minutes into stoppage time.
Afterwards, there was joy but also concern over the condition of Alli, who was substituted with a hamstring injury. Coach Mauricio Pochettino has already done well to work his way through an injury crisis in midfield. Now, with Kane and Son definitely out, and Alli and Lucas Moura doubtful, he will need to find a way of getting the result Spurs need despite a relative lack of firepower.
Spurs do have a surplus of defensive options, and it is therefore likely that they will line up with three central defenders on Thursday, just as they did against Fulham. They have not been as defensively solid as in recent years so far this season, but their Carabao Cup victories over Arsenal and Chelsea and four of their last six wins in the league were secured with clean sheets.
With that in mind, even without their full attacking arsenal, Spurs still have a solid chance of getting the win or draw they need to progress to the final at Chelsea’s expense. Away goals will not be used to separate the two teams and neither will there be any extra-time. The match will go straight to penalties if the aggregate score is tied at the end of Thursday’s encounter. Spurs are good enough to tie things up before that becomes necessary.
Our Preview’s Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur Betting Tips Verdict
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