Chelsea vs. Tottenham
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kick off: 1:30PM
Chelsea play host to Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon needing to avoid defeat to remain in fourth place in the Premier League table.
When Chelsea picked up 10 points from five Premier League fixtures either side of the turn of the year, it appeared likely that Frank Lampard and his side would continue on an upward trajectory during the second half of the campaign.
However, after four matches without success, the Blues find themselves at risk of losing fourth spot, while there is only a five-point gap between the West Londoners and ninth-placed Everton.
The gradually decreasing margin for error means that the pressure is now on Lampard, who will also have one eye on the upcoming Champions League double-header with Bayern Munich.
As he has already acknowledged, Lampard again had to point to Chelsea’s failure to take their chances against Manchester United on Monday night – a game where his team were arguably on the wrong end of several refereeing and VAR decisions.
Nevertheless, Michy Batshuayi was unable to take his opportunity in the absence of the injured Tammy Abraham, who Lampard will be hoping is ready to return from an ankle injury this weekend.
Nevertheless, Chelsea also have significant problems at the other end of the pitch, with seven goals being conceded in their last four top-flight contests, including two from set pieces.
Shipping goals from dead-ball situations hurt Lampard and his team earlier in the campaign, and there are signs that the indecisiveness which plagued them during the early months have returned.
Keeping just one clean sheet in eight league matches leaves Lampard to contemplate reverting to a back three – a strategy which proved to be successful against Spurs two months ago.
That said, the element of surprise has disappeared regarding Lampard’s traits as a manager, putting the Englishman in a position where he must evolve if he wishes to have the longevity of his opposite number and former mentor.
Jose Mourinho has been left delighted with the recent performances of his team, who have collected 10 points from their most recent four matches in the Premier League.
However, Son Heung-min’s broken arm has the potential to derail Spurs’ efforts in their two priority competitions, especially with Harry Kane still two months away from a return.
With a gap of under 65 hours between Wednesday’s defeat to RB Leipzig and Saturday’s encounter, Mourinho has been quick to allude to the short turnaround at a time when some of his star men are short of fitness.
That will undoubtedly play a part when it comes to Mourinho’s team selection at the weekend, with any player who did not complete the 90 minutes likely to feature in the Portuguese’s starting lineup.
Dele Alli was not shy in expressing his frustration when being hauled off against Leipzig, but the playmaker may have been substituted with Mourinho open to using the England international as his frontline striker at Stamford Bridge.
Thoughts over a drastic switch of position for Alli will have made been easier by Spurs’ struggles in the final third against Leipzig, a team who may have taken tips from how Chelsea defeated Spurs on away territory in December.
As well as an excellent showing from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the main plus point from Wednesday night was the performance of Gedson Fernandes, who acted as a necessary link between a defence constantly on the back foot and a makeshift attack.
Whether the 21-year-old will be deemed ready for his first Premier League start this weekend remains to be seen, but Spurs fans will be encouraged by the Benfica loanee’s display on the European stage.
Chelsea possible XI: Arrizabalaga, Zouma, Rudiger, Tomori, James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso, Willian, Mount, Abraham.
Tottenham Hotspur possible XI: Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Tanganga, Dier, Ndombele, Fernandes, Lo Celso, Bergwijn, Alli.