A London derby with plenty riding on it is the Saturday evening game in the Premier League, as unbeaten Chelsea make the short (and familiar) trip to Wembley to take on the stadium’s tenants, Tottenham. Spurs have not quite caught fire the way they’ve been doing in recent seasons, particularly in Europe, but they nevertheless sit in the top four going into the weekend, and can leapfrog their opponents with a win.
Of course, that win will be the difficult bit, as no-one has been able to defeat Chelsea since a Community Shield mauling here at the hands of Manchester City. Mauricio Sarri has still got work to do in order to make Chelsea what they can be – signing a prolific striker in January would be a start – but he’s got a battling, skilful side at his disposal and there are signs of the magic that Sarri got from his Napoli side.
Tottenham vs Chelsea Prediction: Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea
While being in the top four, within just a few points of the top spot, is far from an underperformance for either side here, there will be a frustration felt by both. Spurs will know that they could be three points better off, and potentially top, had they taken the chances they created against Manchester City. Chelsea will reflect on draws with West Ham and Everton in the same light. Both these sides have had difficulty killing games off, and that seems to be the main difference between them and the top two sides. The reasonable conclusion is that here, neither side will get exactly what they want.
Our recommended tip: Harry Kane FGS
Kane’s imprint on the English game is so substantial that, with “just” six goals in the league from twelve appearances, there are questions over whether he’s feeling the “World Cup-lag” that seems to be affecting a lot of the players who reached the later stages of this summer’s tournament. If he is, then there are a lot of strikers who’d like to sign up for it – particularly having seen the Spurs man score a late winner against Croatia at this very stadium to give England a shot at the Nations League semi-finals. He’s 10/3 (4.33) with William Hill to open the scoring here, and Kane does enjoy big games like this.
Not to alarm Spurs fans, but the past two games between these sides have ended with the visiting side taking the three points. The corresponding meeting at Wembley last season was largely forgettable for 80 minutes, save for a stunning Marcos Alonso free-kick to give Chelsea the lead. In the closing ten, Spurs found an equaliser through a Michy Batshuayi own goal, before a howling error from Hugo Lloris gave Alonso his second, and Chelsea’s winner.
Spurs gained their revenge in March, when Alvaro Morata’s opening goal was cancelled out just before half-time by Christian Eriksen before two second-half strikes from Dele Alli gave the visitors a 3-1 win.
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Players to watch: Harry Kane & Alvaro Morata
If Kane is indeed falling short of what he’s capable of, then it’s got to be a worry to other teams to think what he can do when going at full speed. What may concern Spurs is that the player, a natural striker in the Alan Shearer mould, sees his future as more of a creator. Not to discourage self-improvement, but that would make more sense for Spurs if they had another Harry Kane who could get on the end of this one’s passes. When he stays within the danger area, there’s no better striker in England, and that’s not something to take lightly.
If anything, Morata has something of the opposite problem. Thinkpiece after thinkpiece has asked why he’s being picked to lead the line for Chelsea when he’s not a very prolific goalscorer. However, at Juventus – where he made his name before a brief stint back at his old club Real Madrid – Morata never scored more than eight goals in a league season. If you want a goal machine, there are a few out there, but Morata links up play and works hard to bring teammates into the game; that makes him invaluable in the fluid 4-3-3 favoured by Sarri.