Tottenham vs Chelsea Wednesday 4th January 2017- 20:00-Sky Sports 1HD
It is amazing how quickly the narrative in football can shift. At the beginning of the season some news outlets announced that the odds had been drastically shortened on Chelsea coach Antonio Conte becoming the next Premier League coach to lose his job. This was on the back of a run of terrible form at the beginning of the season.
Fast forward to the end of 2016 and the media narrative around Chelsea is now concentrating on the brilliance of the Italian who has led his Chelsea side to the top of the Premier League by six points with a goal difference of +29. Since switching to the 3-4-3 system that Conte used so successfully at Juventus, we have seen a different Chelsea side as they look to be defensively solid and devastating going forward.
There is a similar feeling around Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs. The Argentinian coach has now been in place at White Hart Lane since 2014 and the squad is very much formed in his image with players that fit his precise tactical system perfectly. This Spurs team work hard to support one another in various phases of the match and have the capacity to play some wonderful football when the opportunity arises.
Chelsea could set a record of 14 straight successful games if they collect another three points but Pochettino has every right to believe his side can get the upper hand at White Hart Lane following successive 4-1 away victories at Southampton and Watford.
Spurs were actually Chelsea’s seventh victim at the end of November in the midst of this unbeaten run, so expect the atmosphere to be white-hot at White Hart Lane with so much at stake once more – a victory for Chelsea could see them open up an eight-point gap over Liverpool in second and it would be 13 back to Spurs. The fixture list has been pretty kind to Chelsea since beating Man City with a run of teams they would always be expected to beat on a going day, but perhaps a few tiny cracks did start to appear last time in the 4-2 triumph over Stoke. Maybe the busy Christmas spell is starting to have an effect or even the thought of creating that little piece of history is playing on their minds but Stoke served it up to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Eve as the hosts had to work a lot harder than the final scoreline suggests. Tottenham without question have the quality to get in amongst them too with Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen all currently at the peak of their powers.
Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen are both set to return to Tottenham’s defence. Walker and Vertonghen are available after missing the win over Watford on New Year’s Day through suspension while Mousa Dembele was rested at Vicarage Road and is also likely to start. Erik Lamela is Pochettino’s only absentee. The winger is still recovering from a hip problem.
Pedro is available following suspension after he missed last Saturday’s win over Stoke, and his availability creates a selection quandary with him vying for selection with Willian, who scored twice against the Potters.
Conte reported no injuries in his pre-match press conference, with captain John Terry possibly returning to the substitutes’ bench.