Chelsea can strengthen their position at the top of the Premier League table when they entertain London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge this weekend (5.30pm Saturday on BT Sport 1).
Antonio Conte’s side extended their winning run last time out, edging past Middlesbrough by a goal to nil to make it six victories – and, even more impressively, six clean sheets – on the bounce. The Italian’s decision to switch from a 4-1-4-1 formation to a 3-4-2-1 has proved to be inspired, with the Blues having looked unstoppable ever since they changed shape for the trip to Hull City in October.
Chelsea have not only denied their various opponents a goal in their last half a dozen encounters, but they have rarely even conceded scoring chances. Middlesbrough only had one shot on target against them last weekend, so too Southampton last month, while Everton and Leicester City did not manage any when coming up against Chelsea. Together with the potency and productivity of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Diego Costa (pictured) in forward areas, Conte’s charges look like an extremely well-balanced team at present.
Tottenham returned to winning ways in the Premier League with a 3-2 defeat of West Ham United last weekend, but any good feeling garnered from that victory had evaporated by Tuesday night, when Mauricio Pochettino’s men were knocked out of the Champions League after a 2-1 loss to Monaco. It was an extremely disappointing outcome and performance from Spurs, who were second best throughout their encounter with the French side, and Pochettino may be concerned that his players’ confidence has taken a hit as a result. On the other hand, a win against Chelsea away from home would be a major boost to a side that, at least in Premier League terms, has had a reasonably solid start to the season.
Chelsea have no injury concerns heading into Saturday’s derby, but Conte is unlikely to change his starting XI regardless of the fact that the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Kurt Zouma are available for selection once more. Club captain John Terry is another who will have to make do with a place on the substitutes’ bench, largely as a result of the tremendous recent form of David Luiz, who has excelled in the heart of a three-man backline since he returned to Stamford Bridge from Paris Saint-Germain late on in the summer transfer window. Costa, who is the Premier League’s top scorer with 10 strikes to his name so far this term, remains just a single booking away from a ban.
Pochettino will be missing Ben Davies (ankle), Eric Lamela (hip) and Toby Alderweireld (knee). Left-back Danny Rose is set to miss out through suspension after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign in the come-from-behind triumph over West Ham. Jan Vertonghen is likely to play on the left side of the defensive line of four as a result, with Kevin Wimmer poised to partner Eric Dier in the middle. Further forward, youngster Harry Winks should keep his place in the engine room alongside Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele.
This preview believes it is worth betting on Chelsea to continue their winning run by getting the better of Spurs in front of their own supporters at Stamford Bridge. The Blues are in far better form than their upcoming opponents and should have too much attacking firepower for Pochettino’s men, although a seventh straight clean sheet could be beyond them on this occasion. In the anytime goalscorer market, Hazard – who has found the back of the net five times in his last five outings – looks to be a decent betting tip.