Chelsea will play their biggest remaining match of the year this week when they host Tottenham Hotspur in a must-win Premier League clash for both sides.
Both the Blues and Spurs are in the running for a top-four finish this season (and subsequent qualification for the UEFA Champions League next season) and know that with Arsenal also in the hunt, the three points on offer here would be very valuable indeed.
And the winner is...
The pair played a thrilling match at White Hart Lane when they met earlier in the year, and with a number of world-class players lining up for both sides this one is shaping as no different.
Who will emerge triumphant from this crucial London derby and give their Champions League stock a huge boost in the process? Read on for a full preview including all the need-to-know details and live viewing information, as well as analysis and predictions for this must-win match for both teams.
Date: Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Start time: 2:45 p.m. ET (Eastern Time, United States)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, England
Live Stream and TV Information
FOX Deportes, SiriusXM FC and Fox Soccer Channel will all provide coverage of this match throughout the United States while Sky Go, Sky Sports 1 Ireland, Sky Sports 3D and Sky Sports 1/HD will do the same in the United Kingdom.
A live stream can be found through FoxSoccer 2Go (United States).
All details provided via Live Soccer TV
Recent Form and Previous Matchups
Chelsea come into this one with a great run of form—making it through to the Europa League final and also into the semifinals of the FA Cup. They are undefeated in their last five Premier League games and haven't lost at home since a shock defeat to Queens Park Rangers on January 2.
Spurs too haven't lost in their last five, and have had just two defeats since Christmas. Both of those have only been by one goal, and while they've only won 53 percent of their away games this year, they'll hold no fear going to Stamford Bridge and will believe they can get a result against the Blues.
The two met at White Hart Lane back in October 2012 and played out a thrilling 4-2 result, with both teams coming from behind at points in the epic match.
Chelsea went ahead early after Gary Cahill scored a superb volley after 18 minutes. Tottenham would level the match after half time when William Gallas found the back of the net before veteran Jermain Defoe put the home side ahead on 54 minutes.
Juan Mata would level the game once more on the 66th-minute mark before putting the West London club ahead three minutes later. And despite Tottenham's most gallant efforts, they could not erase that deficit, with Daniel Sturridge tapping home the simplest of finishes in the final minutes to give Chelsea a thrilling 4-2 victory over their North London rivals.
Impact of Game on Premier League's Top Four
Perhaps the biggest question to watch heading into this match is as to how it will impact the top four, and 2014 Champions League dreams, of both London teams.
Here's how the table looks heading into this game.
So what are the possible outcomes and impacts of this London derby?
If Chelsea win—The Blues would have two remaining games against Aston Villa and Everton, and would only need one point to ensure a top-four finish. Tottenham would need to win both games against Sunderland and Stoke City and hope that Arsenal don't pick up four points or more from their remaining games against Newcastle United and Wigan Athletic.
If Tottenham win—Spurs would be equal on points with Chelsea and one point ahead of Arsenal with two fixtures remaining. If they won both games they would secure a top-four finish, but that will largely be dependent on how both other London clubs fare in the final two weeks.
If they draw—Chelsea would hold a two-point advantage over Arsenal and a three-point lead over Tottenham. They would need to secure a minimum of four points over their final two games to ensure qualification. Tottenham would need Arsenal to pick up no more than four points and win both of their remaining matches to finish in fourth.
Key Matchup to Watch: David Luiz vs. Gareth Bale
Chelsea defender David Luiz has been in exceptional form of late—especially when it comes to chiming in with the attack and scoring spectacular goals.
However, in this must-win fixture, Luiz will likely be played as a central defender as usual, and will be likely asked to do a lot of work throughout the night on Tottenham's star winger Gareth Bale. Who, despite not directly matching up with Luiz on paper, will end up coming his way a great deal on the night and will look to catch out the Blues' defender.
Bale has been the player of the season so far (as the accolades prove) and will be looking to carry the North London club to further success this weekend.
Tottenham have not won a game in 2013 without Bale scoring—meaning that if Chelsea can shut him down here, they'll go a long way towards winning this match.
The Welsh winger will look to cut in from the left and contribute more as an attacking winger at times. Chelsea must get a physical body on Bale (someone like Luiz) and limit the time that he has in the middle of the field to either get his shot away or lay it off to the likes of Defoe or Clint Dempsey.
Shut down Bale and you shut down Tottenham. It's almost as simple as that for the Blues, but as they've shown this year, it's much harder to do in reality.
Biggest Storyline to Follow: Andre Villas-Boas' Return to the Bridge
Obviously the top-four picture is the focus of this game, but there's also a very interesting sub-storyline to follow in Andre Villas-Boas' first return to Stamford Bridge since being sacked last year.
The current Tottenham manager was fired by the Blues after an underwhelming first season in charge had the team struggling to qualify for the Champions League. The manager that replaced him—Roberto Di Matteo—was fired earlier in the year for failing to qualify from the group stages of the Champions League and replaced by Rafa Benitez, who has already confirmed he won't be staying on next season.
Villas-Boas will no doubt be relieved to be out from under Roman Abramovich's rule, and he would love to stick it to his former club by getting a win here. Not only would it exact revenge in a way, it would seriously hinder the Blues' Champions League dream, which is seeming the only thing that Abramovich wants his managers and players to concentrate on.
Villas-Boas lit the fuse for a thrilling derby by criticising his former employers, saying that the brand of football they play lacks a definitive style and is "invisible" at times.
They have won the biggest competition in European football, and every single trophy they wanted in the last 10 years. They have the most amazing record, so it's very hard to say anything. Sometimes success is what matters in football, independent of style. I think if you don't have a style it makes you invisible.
A very fascinating storyline to watch out for indeed.
Three Stats to Consider
20. Tottenham Hotspur have not won a Premier League game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their last 20 visits. No side is currently on a longer winless streak at an opponent's home ground than Spurs are with Chelsea, who have won their last six home games in the Premier League.
13. Gareth Bale has scored 13 goals away from home in the Premier League this season—the most of any player in the league.
1. Tottenham Hotspur have played just one away game in the Premier League this year where they did not score a goal, though it was against a London club in QPR.
Chelsea will come into this one as favorites (and deservedly so) for they are the team with the superior form line and achievements to their name this season in the EPL.
However, this is a derby game. And as we've seen throughout various derbies—particularly London derbies—absolutely anything can happen and no side is immune from chalking up a surprise victory or stunning result when they were least expected to.
Tottenham will have top-four ambitions riding on this game more than anything, and the pressure is more on them to get a result here than for the home side.
Spurs have responded relatively well under pressure this year and they should be able to find the back of the net here. I think they'll grab the opening goal of the game, but just like last time they played, I can't see them hanging on to that lead here.
Tottenham will defend gallantly, and I think they'll take away a point from the Bridge this week—something that doesn't really help either team that much.
It simply prolongs the drama until the weekend.
Prediction: Chelsea 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1
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