Tottenham Hotspur-Chelsea Preview
Chelsea will be looking to cement their status as Premier League title favourites as they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea (19-6-3) have not lost a league match since the new year, and their terrific run of form has seen them surge to the top of the table with just 10 games remaining. With none of their title rivals playing over the weekend due to the FA Cup scheduling, a win would send Chelsea seven points clear at the top – with their closest pursuers having two matches in hand – heaping the pressure on the chasing pack.
However, Mourinho did everything in his power to distract from Chelsea’s title charge this week, first mocking his former Real Madrid players for ‘queuing in front of the mirror’, then talking up his former charge at Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane, before linking Chelsea with a shock move for AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli.
"In football you never know the future," said Mourinho. "Balotelli is with a big club at the moment but you never know the future. They want to keep the best players and want to keep the best Italian players. But Mario has already been in English football before.
"I’m not going to be manager of Milan or the Italy national team, but he’s a good kid and somebody I’d like to work with again."
The last time Chelsea met Spurs (16-5-7) it was the north Londoners who impressed in a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. However, a lot has changed at Tottenham since that game, and they go into Saturday’s meetings as clear underdogs. Despite a number of positive results and performances under new manager Tim Sherwood, the Lilywhites are no closer to the top four than they were when Andre Villas-Boas was sacked by the club at the start of December, and they have crashed out of both domestic competitions and failed to impress in any of their matches against the big clubs.
Despite Champions League qualification looking potentially out of reach, Sherwood hasn’t written off a top-four finish and is hopeful his team will spoil some of their London rivals’ campaigns along the way during the run-in.
"We’re going to the Bridge and that’s definitely tough, but sometimes expectancy works against you," said the Tottenham head coach while reflecting on a hard-fought 1-0 win over Cardiff City last weekend. "Some of our fans might have been rubbing their hands expecting a few goals against Cardiff, but it doesn’t work like that. Sometimes, when the expectation is not with you, it makes it a little bit easier.
"We’re looking to mess up as many other people’s seasons as we can, and enhance ours at the same time."
Chelsea have injury concerns over Eden Hazard, who picked up an ankle knock last week, while Marco van Ginkel remains out as he recovers from a long-term knee problem. Tottenham have concerns over the fitness of Zeki Fryers (ankle), Danny Rose (knee), Kyle Walker (hip), Younes Kaboul (calf), Etienne Capoue (ankle), Vlad Chiriches (back), Christian Eriksen (back) and Erik Lamela (back).
Chelsea have the best defensive record in the league with just 22 goals conceded, while only Manchester City and Liverpool have scored more than the Blues’ 52.
Spurs have not won at Stamford Bridge in their last 26 visits to the ground, a run that stretches back to 1990. However, they have lost just four of the last 14 meetings with the Blues in all competitions.