Guest post by Tottenham website www.thfc1882.com:
Spurs are used to playing on a Thursday night this season. Of course the previous fixtures have been in the Europa League, now the Premier League are getting in on the action too. This game is huge for both clubs. It’s 3rd versus 4th and a Spurs win would open a gap of five points with a game in hand on their London rivals. It would also leave the Lilywhites only two points behind second placed Manchester United, with that game in hand on them too. Heady times at The Lane. For years Chelsea called it ’3 point Lane’ though that hoodoo has now been broken and Spurs go into this as slight favourites with the bookies. So why am I so nervous?
Chelsea have, by their recent standards, had an up and down season and for much of it young manager Andre Villas-Boas appears to have been on the verge of the boot. Their defence, something they have built previous title wins around have looked all at sea on many occassions and they have attracted criticism from all quarters.
Meanwhile up front Villas-Boas has, like Ancelotti before him, struggled to get Drogba and Torres to play together. In recent games this has seen the £50m Spaniard sidelined with Drogba leading the line while Sturridge and Mata offer assistance. Assistance being the key word for Mata. With seven assists this season, he’s second in the Premier League in that statistic. The former Valencia man was always likely to end up in London this season, first Arsenal then Spurs appeared to be leading the race for him before he finally ended up at Stamford Bridge. Similar in style to his compatriot David Silva, Mata drifts across the front finding space between the lines of defence and midfield, probing for an opening. He’s also not shy to have a crack himself and is probably the biggest threat to Spurs tonight. Of course Mata has yet to come up against Super Scotty Parker and if anyone can stop him running riot between the lines, it’s Parker.
Sturridge and Drogba are also both on form and will need to be watched carefully. It must be hoped that Ledley King is again available as he is one of the few defenders in the League who can keep a rampaging Drogba at bay. Chelsea’s midfield is likely to comprise Lampard, Romeu and Meireles. Increasingly marginalised this season, Lampard seems to thrive when written off and has often proved a handful against Spurs, he as much as anyone will be ‘up for it’ on Thursday. Meireles has flitted in and out of form all season but can be a powerful presence on his day. Meanwhile Romeu has started to show the class that you’d expect of a La Masia graduate and is forging a role as a key player for Chelsea this season.
At the back, Chelsea’s real weakness this season, Villas-Boas may have a decision or two to make. David ‘Playstation boy’ Luiz may be fit to return which would allow Ivanovic to resume duties at right back and dropping Bosingwa. John Terry picked up a knock on Saturday but is likely to do all he can to make this game, while Ashley Cole will complete the back four. In goal, one time ‘best keeper in the World’ Petr Cech has looked increasingly unsteady this year and it must be hoped that he continues his downward spiral tonight.
For Harry Redknapp there is already the certainty that Aaron Lennon will be missing, with no other out and out right winger in the squad Redknapp will have to try and find the right balance to beat Chelsea. After missing Sunday’s win over Sunderland, Gareth Bale may make a return on the left, if he does then whichever right back Chelsea go with will be in for a torrid night, as neither can live with the Welshman’s pace. There is a fear that Redknapp will play Bale from the right, allowing Modric to continue roaming from the left flank, this rarely suits Bale and players are always happier in their favoured positions.
Another decision for Redknapp regards Sunday’s goal hero, Roman Pavlyuchenko. Assuming Bale is fit, starting Pavlyuchenko would mean dropping one of Sandro, van der Vaart or Adebayor. Sandro is a powerhouse who will be vital in helping Parker combat Chelsea’s equally powerful midfield. Van der Vaart was arguably Spurs best player in the second half against Sunderland and with a solid midfield of Parker and Sandro screening, he can roam free of the right wing, much as Mata will for Chelsea, and create havoc between the lines. His passing was sublime against Sunderland and will need to reach the same levels to unlock Chelsea’s defence.
Adebayor meanwhile has given Spurs a new dimension up front this season and even when not scoring has worked his socks off to unsettle defences. His presence against Terry is essential. So with all due respect – and thanks for his goal on Sunday - to Pav, he should be again consigned to the bench for this one. There will also be decisions to be made at the back. Younes Kaboul is available after suspension but after Gallas’ performance against Sunderland may not be able to walk back into the team. Much will depend on whether Ledley King’s knee can take a second game in four days. The rest of the team, Kyle Walker, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Brad Friedel picks itself.
Walker King Gallas Ekotto
VDV Parker Sandro Bale
After predicting a 5-0 walkover of Sunderland, it’s clear that my prediction-o-meter is off base at the moment. This game fills me with huge nerves and may well hinge on the inclusion – or not – of King and Bale. With those two in the line-up Spurs have a far greater chance of success, obviously. I’m going to hope they are in and go for a 2-1 Spurs win and that would be the perfect Christmas present for all Spurs fans!
Thanks to THFC1882.com for submitting this guest post