Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to continue their strong start to the Premier League season when they host Chelsea at White Hart Lane on Saturday (12:45 BST, live on BTsport1).
This match has been billed as master versus apprentice, with Spurs’ boss Andre Villas-Boas having previously worked on the coaching team of Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho, including during Mourinho’s first spell in West London.
The younger coach’s Spurs side have won four of their five matches to date and currently sit second in the table on 12 points, level with leaders Arsenal. They have conceded just one goal, making theirs the best defensive record anywhere in Europe as this nascent stage of the season.
It was a summer of change at White Hart Lane, with the club using the proceeds from Gareth Bale’s world-record £85 million move to Real Madrid and the sales of various fringe players to invest over £100 million in seven new recruits. After just missing out on a top four finish last season, Villas-Boas has been able to reshape the squad to his liking.
It will take some time for Spurs to gel into a fully cohesive unit, but early signs have been very encouraging, especially in midfield, where the powerful Paulinho has already formed a good partnership with Mousa Dembele. The pair of them performed superbly away at Cardiff last weekend, with Paulinho scoring the late winner.
The protection they have afforded has been key to the club’s excellent defensive record, with most threats dealt with long before the back the four have been called into action. Spurs have conceded less average shots on goal per match (7) than any other side in the division.
Further up the pitch, Christian Erikson already looks an excellent piece of business, having added the touch of subtlety that has been missing since Luka Modric’s departure last year. Erik Lamela has shown flashes of class in his limited appearances, while Roberto Soldado has scored twice and demonstrated excellent movement.
Spurs do have a few injury problems coming into Saturday’s match, with Aaron Lennon, Etienne Capoue and Younes Kaboul all set to miss out. Danny Rose will face a late fitness test after missing last weekend’s victory over Cardiff with a toe injury.
Mourinho returned to Chelsea this summer after a difficult three-year spell at Real Madrid, where his inflammatory behaviour eventually grated with press and players alike. He returned as a favourite son, as the man who led the club to back-to-back league titles first time around, but has endured a less than comfortable homecoming so far.
Chelsea currently sit fourth in the table with 10 points from three wins, one draw and one defeat, but have lost two of their last three matches in major competitions and were very laboured in dispatching Fulham, 2-0, last weekend.
Mourinho has continued with the 4-2-3-1 formation used by Rafael Benitez last season, but has put greater emphasis on Chelsea’s efficiency on the counter attack, perhaps at the cost of outright creativity against teams who are prepared to sit back and defend the edge of the area.
Juan Mata has been named Chelsea’s player of the year in each of the last two seasons, but has found himself marginalised by Mourinho, who clearly prefers the more active and defensively aware Oscar. The Brazilian has been excellent so far this season, but Mata may still have a role to play in unlocking the most stubborn of defences.
Oscar is the only one of Chelsea’s attacking midfielders and strikers to have scored thus far. Newly signed Samuel Eto’o seems to have jumped ahead of Demba Ba and Fernando Torres as Mourinho’s first choice up front, but still needs to find additional match sharpness, while wide forward Andre Schurrle is yet to convince following his move from Bayer Leverkusen.
Marco Van Ginkel tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Swindon in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday and is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season. Brazilian midfielder Ramires is a doubt for Saturday after picking up a thigh strain in the same match.
Spurs v Chelsea Betting Tips Advice
Chelsea won last season’s equivalent fixture 4-2 and are undefeated in the last six league meetings between the sides, although that victory was their first in the league at White Hart Lane since 2005. Spurs were also without three regular starters, including Bale.
The Bale money has allowed the North London side to build a much stronger squad this time around and they have the necessary pace and power to cause Chelsea serious problems, especially in midfield, where the Blues could well be overrun.
Spurs have won five home matches on the bounce and have an opportunity to send out a message about their intentions for the season with victory on Saturday. It will be a tightly contested affair, but we believe a narrow home win is the most likely outcome.
- Back Tottenham Hotspur to win @ 9/5 with William Hill.
- These two sides have scored 11 and conceded just three goals between them in their combined 10 league matches to date and with both looking relatively secure we do not expect to see anywhere near as many goals as last year. Back under 2.5 goals @ best odds of 5/6 with SkyBet.