Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 8/11
Chelsea are set to welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, in the 27th round of the 2020/21 season in the Premier League. With Manchester City’s impending ban from European competitions, this game may just have become even more interesting that it was before.
Still recovering from a ban of their own, though in terms of transfers which was imposed on them last summer just as they were to start a team rebuild with a new manager, Chelsea have done remarkably well so far, there’s no denying that.
In the Premier League, they sit in fourth place with 41 points to their name, one more than Spurs in fifth, two more than Sheffield United in sixth, three more than Manchester United, and five more than Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton.
Chelsea’s recent form hasn’t exactly been great. They’re currently on a winless run of four league games so far, having lost to Newcastle and Manchester United and drawing against Arsenal and Leicester City since they beat Burnley back in mid-January.
They got through their Champions League group, finishing and are now set to face Bayern Munich in the round of 16, the first leg of which is being played next week.
Manager Frank Lampard will be without the services of midfielder N’Golo Kante, who suffered an adductor injury in the defeat to Manchester United last time around. Wingers Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi are also out of action, which probably means the experienced duo of Willian and Pedro are likely to play a big part.
On the other hand, Lampard should be able to call upon striker Tammy Abraham, midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek and defender Andreas Christensen, with the three of them back from their respective injuries. Willy Caballero is likely to start in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga again.
Spurs have had a rather turbulent season so far. Their poor start and inability to recover quickly enough saw Mauricio Pochettino, the man who was in charge of the team for five years and brought them to the edge of Champions League glory last season, sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho.
The controversial Portuguese made his name in English football by winning the Premier League three times with Chelsea, and his face isn’t a popular one at Stamford Bridge anymore. Once self-labelled as “the Special One”, he received a chorus of “you’re not special anymore” when he came to visit for the first time with Manchester United. It will be interesting to see what happens now, when he comes back to the place of his triumphs as a Spurs man.
Be that as it may, Spurs, as has already been said, sit directly below Chelsea at the moment with 40 points to their name, and the race between these teams (as well as a few more) for top-four placement should be a tight one right to the end. It may so happen that Manchester City’s ban sees the fifth qualify for the Champions League too, but none of them will want to take that risk.
Speaking of the Champions League, Spurs also finished second in their group, behind Bayern Munich and ahead of Olympiacos and Red Star Belgrade, but their chances of progressing through the round of 16 seem very slim after they were beaten 0-1 at home by RB Leipzig in the first leg.
The situation with the forwards at Mourinho’s disposal is being discussed far and wide these days. Since they allowed Fernando Llorente to leave last summer, Harry Kane was their only recognized striker. With the England captain ruled out for several months, Son Heung-min had taken over for a while, but now the South Korean has been ruled out too, likely for the rest of the season. Lucas Moura is the likeliest candidate to play furthest up the pitch now, but Mourinho could perhaps opt for Erik Lamela, Dele Alli or newcomer Steven Bergwijn who arrived in January to replace the Inter Milan-bound Christian Eriksen.
Apart from Kane and Son, defender Juan Foyth and midfielder Moussa Sissoko are also out.
Lampard was once Mourinho’s pupil, but the times have changed much since then. Given the display Spurs put in against Leipzig and the lack of a prolific goalscorer in their team, it’s very likely that they’ll go back north of the river with empty hands.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 8/11
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