EPL Preview: Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur – Stamford Bridge – April 1
Now that they have been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea’s only hope for a title is the domestic FA Cup where they have made it to the semi-finals. As far as their Premier League chances go, last year’s title-holders will need a lot of good fortune to break into the Top 4 this time around. The Blues are a distant 5 points behind Tottenham Hotspur (who they will host on Sunday) at Stamford Bridge. A disastrous run of six games in which they have succumbed to as many as 4 defeats has been made even more ignominious by losses to sides like Bournemouth and Watford. The vaunted treasure trove in attack that Conte flaunted in the likes of Alvaro Morata, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Willian has come a cropper with defeat after defeat. The recent FA Cup win against Leicester City and a edgy Premier League victory over Crystal Palace in away games have given hope to fans of a revival of sorts. But the fragile backline of Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill that have conceded goals against all and sundry don’t look likely to stop a rampaging Tottenham attack.
Tottenham’s main cause for worry is the ligament injury sustained by their lead striker, Harry Kane, in early March. Reports suggest that the talismanic English scorer is recovering faster than expected and could very well start in Sunday’s Stamford Bridge clash. Mauricio Pochettino’s boys have been in great form winning 9 of their last 12 Premier League outings and drawing three. One of those draws was a 2-2 against a formidable Liverpool away at Anfield. Despite Kane’s absence Tottenham have managed crushing wins of 0-3 and 1-4 against Swansea and Bournemouth in FA Cup and Premier League clashes respectively. The likes of Del Alli, Christian Eriksen, Eric Lamela and Son Heung-min have been in superb touch gettings goals in both these games.
Chelsea coach Antonio Conte, in order to mend things for the Blues, has been experimenting with Hazard in a new “False 9” instead of his customary left-wing position. How this works out on Sunday will be interesting to see. Conte will also be relying on Willian who seems be the only Chelsea player who has impressed in recent games, but has been unfortunate not to get too many goals.
Tottenham on the other hand will have to break a 28-year old hoodoo of not having won a game at Stamford Bridge. But their great form in recent games may help them overcome the vulnerable hosts. For Chelsea, even a win might not help given the 5-point gap. In the light of Chelsea’s formidable history against Spurs at home, bookmakers are wagering on a Blues’ win. But it wasn’t very long ago that an unfancied Bournemouth crushed them at this very venue 3-0. Pochettino must have taken note of that.
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