A potentially seismic London derby kicks off this evening at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea and Tottenham both needing a result to help them bounce back from weekends which were wounding for differing reasons. Chelsea lost on penalties to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final (and that’s only half of the story), while Spurs fell to a defeat at Burnley which may have put paid to their already faint hopes of lifting the Premier League trophy.
The path this game – a veritable battle of the Mauricios – may have implications for more than just the sides’ Premier League ambitions. Blues manager Mauricio Sarri was already experiencing speculation as to his ability to control his players before Kepa, the side’s first-choice goalkeeper, refused to be substituted late in extra time on Sunday. At the time of writing, Sarri has yet to commit on whether the custodian will be in place for tonight’s match. Spurs, for their part, are glad to have Harry Kane back, and the England striker was among the goals at the weekend – but they won’t be too thrilled that the unbeaten league run that ran for exactly the length of his absence is now over.
Expect A Ding-Dong Battle
At the time of kick-off, Chelsea sit sixth in the table – albeit with a game in hand on Manchester United and Arsenal which, if won, would make up the points gap to those sides. Losing, or drawing, this game would see them lose more ground they can’t afford to give up. While a largely identical squad was regularly accused last season of playing to get Sarri’s predecessor, Antonio Conte, sacked, we can expect them to have game faces on here. After all, Sunday saw them unlucky to lose on penalties to a side that had thrashed them 6-0 a fortnight prior.
If Spurs continue to nurse any hopes of a Premier League title – and even if they want to maintain a comfortable lead over Arsenal and a resurgent Manchester United – they, too, need to take as many points as possible and a draw won’t suit them any more than it will their hosts. Both sides have more than adequate fire-power – Higuain, Kane, Hazard and Son are all more than capable scorers – and so it makes sense to back more than 2.5 goals being scored, which is available at 19/20 with Paddy Power. A 2-1 win for either side would be enough to make that a winning bet.
Kane Able To Make Up For Lost Time
Eyebrows were raised when Mauricio Pochettino named Harry Kane in the starting line-up for his side’s visit to Turf Moor. Given that conservative estimates had England’s Number One Number Nine slated to return in March after an ankle injury sustained while Spurs lost to Manchester United last month. Those same eyebrows were lowered 65 minutes into the game when Kane scored his side’s equaliser after they feel 1-0 behind. It wasn’t enough to save his side from defeat, though. Is there ever a bad time to include England’s best striker in your first XI? If there is, then it might be “when your team has won four straight games without him”.
Kane will be in the starting line-up for this game, and he’s a natural goalscorer with an all-around game that is unmatched among Premier League strikers. He’s 17/4 to score the first goal here with 888sport; those odds are longer than Gonzalo Higuain’s, and on that merit alone it makes sense to make that our Bet of the Day. While Spurs might not win the game, Kane can be relied upon to do what he does so well.
Hard To Pick A Winner, But Expect Twists And Turns
A cursory glance at the Premier League table, and an even more cursory one at the “Next Manager to Leave” odds (Sarri is ⅖ with Betway), shows that Spurs are the better side here. However, as the weekend showed, they have their vulnerabilities and there’s no doubt they’ve lost to worse teams than Chelsea this season. With the sheer unaccountable brilliance of Eden Hazard, and the proven finishing ability of Higuain, a Blues side with a point to prove could inflict damage – especially as Sunday’s defensive display showed that Sarri can change his tactics when he deems it prudent.
We’d still just about predict Spurs to win this one, because their Mauricio has a system that’s fully bedded in and a squad of players he can trust innately to do their jobs. In a battle that’s likely to be on a knife-edge, that’s a decent reason to back the visitors, albeit not a clinching one. One bet we would feel more confident in making is for Both Teams To Score. At 4/7 with BetVictor, and with the artillery both sides can call upon for this game, that’s a much more reliable way to go than trying to read the tea-leaves on which side will take the three points.
Bets of the Day:
Kane to score first (17/4, 888); Both teams to score (4/7, BetVictor); More than 2.5 goals (19/20, Paddy Power)