5 Reasons Why Tottenham Hotspur Should Not Fear Chelsea
It is win or bust for Tottenham Hotspur in March as they face three of the teams currently above them in the Premier League. Beginning with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this weekend, Arsenal (home) and Liverpool (away) follow with Southampton (home) also in between.
Tottenham's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League for next season require positive results from these matches. Undoubtedly, there are going to be some nerves around White Hart Lane right now.
Chelsea on Saturday present arguably the toughest of these upcoming challenges.
Jose Mourinho's men currently top the table, and in Eden Hazard they have a player verging on scintillating form. Nor should the other medal-laden stars that make up the Blues' experienced and skilled squad be forgotten
Tim Sherwood's team undoubtedly need to be prepared for a long 90 minutes. Yet, there are also reasons why Spurs should not fear their rivals from across London.
Over the following few pages, these are explored. From Spurs' own recent history against Chelsea, to some on-pitch details that might be to their advantage.
Tottenham Have Overcome Their Old Chelsea Hoodoo (Mostly)
One moment Jose Mourinho will not recall so fondly from his first spell in England came in November 2006. His Chelsea side became the first to lose to Tottenham in the league for 16 years as goals from Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon sealed a 2-1 win.
It was a turning point for Spurs against Chelsea. Further league wins in 2009 and 2010 (as well as in the League Cup final in 2008) further rid the North Londoners of any jinx or inferiority complex that had been there.
Spurs have not beaten them now since that 2010 win. But the eight meetings in that time have not been played under the old spell of fear. Any of the five draws among them could have gone Spurs' way.
It is true that a victory at Stamford Bridge has not been forthcoming since that oft-cited 2-1 win in 1990 (David Howells and Gary Lineker scoring the goals). That has primarily been to do with Chelsea making the place a fortress. One where few clubs have come away with anything.
As a result, Spurs will do very well to leave with three points on Saturday. No matter the difficulty of the task at hand, any failure cannot be put down to their previously cursed ways.
Chelsea's Concentration Issues Can Be Taken Advantage of
Chelsea have more than earned their right to contend for the Premier League title this season. After a couple of years off the pace, Jose Mourinho has led them to within reach of a fifth-ever championship.
Picking out flaws in such a team is difficult. But there are couple of areas Tottenham can look to take advantage of.
Chief among them is a lack of concentration in the Chelsea defence. It is an issue that has seen them draw two recent games 1-1 they probably should have won.
(Given John Terry took advantage of such a lapse in concentration back in September, it should be noted Spurs are not flawless in this regard either.)
Both West Bromwich Albion's Victor Anichebe and Galatasaray's Aurelien Chedjou were allowed to head past Petr Cech unchallenged. On both occasions, the defenders around them all appeared to be operating individually, rather than as a cohesive unit.
The same problems occurred in last week's win over Fulham. Early on in the match Clint Dempsey got between Gary Cahill and Terry and should have done better with his header. Johnny Heitinga's consolation goal also came from no one picking him up.
Chelsea have only conceded 22 goals this season, making them the division's stingiest defence. They will not easily be beaten.
But whether it be through the aerial threat of Emmanuel Adebayor or one of Spurs' centre-backs, Roberto Soldado's movement or an incisive run from a winger, Chelsea can be caught unaware. The bigger test for Tottenham will be whether they can get in the positions they will need to catch them out.
The Inconsistencies of Chelsea's Strikers
At least prior to Emmanuel Adebayor's resurgence, Tottenham's major problem this season was a lack of goals. So in pinpointing this as a slight issue with Chelsea, it is a case of he who is without sin etc etc.
Chelsea's 52 Premier League goals mark them as the joint-third best scorers. Only the brilliant attacks of Liverpool and Manchester City are above them.
Spurs should be concerned about the creativity of Eden Hazard and Oscar, not to mention Andre Schurrle, who will be riding high following his hat-trick last week.
With 20 goals between them in all competitions, whoever players up-front out of Demba Ba, Samuel Eto'o and Fernando Torres will be capable of hurting Spurs too.
That trio's inconsistency in front of goal will give the Spurs defence hope of stopping them, though.
The threat provided elsewhere is significant, and in the manipulative work of the likes of Hazard and Oscar, Chelsea have ways of freeing their front men.
If Spurs can resist these efforts (a big ask), in Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen they have two centre-backs who will relish finding ways to stifle whoever leads the opposition line.
They managed to stop Torres back in the autumn. Round two could be about to commence.
Both Teams Are Having to Deal with Tiredness
Earlier this week Jose Mourinho spoke to Chelsea TV—here via an article by The Independent's Simon Rice—about his frustration at playing Tottenham on Saturday, without the extra day's rest for his players following the international break. He said:
It is harder for them [the players] than for me, I sit on the bench. This week is going to be even worse [than last]. [The players are travelling to] South Africa, United States, Portugal for others. Okay, some England players will be at Wembley but it is still a match on Wednesday and we play on Saturday, which I don’t understand.
Mourinho conceded Spurs were in the same situation, but he is clearly concerned about his players becoming fatigued.
His counterpart Tim Sherwood will have the same worries over some of his key men. Tiredness has partly hurt their performances following European games this season.
At least this weekend, Chelsea will be similarly battling to overcome weary legs. If anything, Spurs might have a slight advantage in this regard with Emmanuel Adebayor, Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon and Sandro among their potential starters not to travel midweek.
Spurs Are Competing for a Top-Four Place for a Reason
Perhaps the biggest reason Tottenham should not fear Chelsea is the fact they are deserved contenders for a top-four place.
Spurs have been as much for the best part of the last decade. Regularly contesting with Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and others for the right to be in the Champions League.
Things have not ultimately gone their way as often as they would have liked, but they continue to be there or thereabouts.
If Tim Sherwood and his players have genuine ambitions of competing on European football's biggest stage, they must embrace fixtures such as these.
Playing big games against the likes of Chelsea are what many claim to want. Now they have to prove they are up for the challenge.