Spurs vs Chelsea
A four match win streak in the Premier League and following on from our best home performance of the season against Aston Villa, this weekend sees Spurs vs Chelsea.
This match has been marked in the calendar by every Spurs fan, following on from the FA Cup Semi-Final defeat and losing out on a place in the Champions League.
Just to add some more spice, Andre Villas-Boas won’t admit it, but he has some unfinished business after his ill-fated time in charge of the blues last season.
Andre Villas-Boas has said it’s not about revenge and has tried to distance himself from making this match all about him.
“In the end this is one thing which has been to a certain extent blown out of proportion in some ways – this is certainly not a personal matter.”
Personal business aside, here are my 5 keys to Spurs vs Chelsea this weekend.
1. Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar
Roman Abramovich was keen to add some flair to Chelsea this season, bringing in Oscar and Eden Hazard alongside the already established Juan Mata. This now gives the Blues three playmakers in their 4-2-3-1 system and all three are interchangeable and look to operate in the pockets between the lines of defence and midfield.
Juan Mata has started from the right, but is equally comfortable coming inside and drifting out to the left. Oscar has predominantly played through the middle and Eden Hazard works from the left, but is also happy to come inside to assist with the play.
All three are looking to thread balls through the defence to runners on the move rather than looking to cross. Only Sunderland and West Brom attempt fewer crosses than Chelsea per match in the Premier League this season and it’s due to the way these three play.
If we look at their last match against Norwich, Chelsea created 19 chances and scored four goals. This may accentuate what they try to do by illustrating it against a less than solid Norwich defence, but it highlighted the way they are looking to slide the ball through in to the area to runners on the move.
Juan Mata’s pass to Eden Hazard for the third goal was a perfect example of what Chelsea have been about this season and we will have to guard against this.
2. The Chelsea left side
Chelsea have gone through a few right backs over the years, but the left side has always been defended well by Ashley Cole. This season we are seeing teams have success against Chelsea down this flank due to the fact that Eden Hazard is offering Cole less protection than Juan Mata does Branislav Ivanovic on the right.
Arsenal had plenty of joy down this side against Chelsea in their 2-1 defeat at the Emirates, which included Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass for Gervinho’s goal.
When Chelsea have used Ryan Bertrand instead of Hazard they have looked much more solid, but the Belgian’s lack of defensive cover has proved an issue.
If Chelsea do start with their attacking midfield three of Mata, Oscar and Hazard, Spurs should be looking to get the ball to Aaron Lennon to attack Cole one-on-one.
3. Fernando Torres
Fernando Torres is having something of a rebound season this year now that he is the main man up front. After scoring just six times in the Premier League last term, El Nino has four strikes already and the reason is that he is receiving passes slid through to him. Previously Torres was receiving a lot of balls to feet and was unable to play on the shoulder of the last defender. This campaign he is getting passes that he can run on to, in and around the penalty area.
Last season, Fernando Torres took 78% of his shots from inside the box, hitting the target with 28% and converting 9% in to goals. This season he has taken 94% of his shots from inside the box, hitting that target with 37% and converting 25% in to goals.
It’s all in the delivery and right now Fernando Torres is getting the service he likes.
“I feel more comfortable as a proper No. 9 trying to get in behind defences, looking to be on the shoulder of the last defender, getting chances, running through.”
4. Spurs vs Chelsea conceding chances from crosses
Chelsea lead the Premier League and are conceding the fewest goals, but they are vulnerable to crosses and chances created from square passes.
Norwich scored from a cross knocked-down for Grant Holt, Arsenal drove in a low pass for Gervinho to spin and fire home. Reading also scored from a ball in to Pavel Pogrebnyak, as Chelsea have conceded three of their four goals in the Premier League from crosses.
With Jermain Defoe currently leading the line, maybe the time has come to introduce Emmanuel Adebayor in to the Spurs line-up?
5. Gary Cahill and David Luiz
In the absence of John Terry, Chelsea will look to the partnership of Gary Cahill and David Luiz in central defence. These two have already played twice together in the Premier League, keeping clean sheets against both Newcastle and Stoke.
The Magpies and the men from the Potteries did create chances from crosses against this paring though.
Gary Cahill has done well with in the air, winning 72% of his duels, but David Luiz only wins 40% of his and needs to be targeted on corners and set pieces.
Steven Caulker has already proved himself to be a handful in the opposition box. He had a header ruled out from a corner against Lazio, whilst also giving QPR problems, before scoring his first goal for Spurs last time out against Aston Villa. It may have been after a lucky deflection from Jermain Defoe’s shot, but it was Spurs’ third goal from a corner this season.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Steven Caulker and also Gareth Bale, who hit the bar with a header at Stamford Bridge from a corner last season, should all be a threat.
Spurs vs Chelsea conclusions
Only QPR have stopped Chelsea taking all three points from their seven Premier League matches this season and the Blues will be a tough nut to crack.
We have a score to settle after being denied a place in the Champions League and the defeat in the FA Cup Semi-Final. Andre Villas-Boas won’t admit publicly that there is anything different about this fixture for him, but you can be sure he would have been meticulously planning for this match.
“You can see the buzz around the training ground, how the players feel, how motivated they are to play in games of this dimension,”
We have to watch out for passes slid through for not just Torres, but also Hazard, Oscar and Mata. They have been susceptible to conceding from crosses and square balls in to the box.
It should be a fascinating encounter and if Hazard is playing on the left we need to expose his lack of defensive cover.
This could be a big game for Aaron Lennon.
Spurs vs Chelsea prediction: Spurs 2 Chelsea 2