It’s the big one, Chelsea vs Spurs, where defeat is not an option if we want to make it in to next season’s Champions League.
A lot has changed since we last met the Blues at the Lane. For us, Gareth Bale and Moussa Dembele should be back in the line-up having missed the first encounter. For them, Rafa Benitez has taken over from Roberto Di Matteo and made Chelsea a more functional side.
So what can we expect from this trip to the Bridge and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs this time?
Chelsea set up and style
Since he’s taken over, Rafa Benitez has instilled a lot more discipline in to the Chelsea side. By that I mean that the players now have defined roles and if one moves forwards in to attack, then another will fill his position. This wasn’t always the case under Roberto Di Matteo, as the team is now set up more to counter attack than at the start of the season under the previous manager.
Where Di Matteo’s charges failed were in the wide areas with the likes of Eden Hazard failing to offer significant cover defensively to his full back. Not only does Hazard now track more, but also Benitez will often deploy two more defensively inclined players in the pivot when he plays the trio of Hazard, Oscar and Mata. If he wants to bring in Frank Lampard to add an attacking threat from deeper, he will usually drop one of the three for Victor Moses who provides better defensive cover.
What’s more, the trio of Hazard, Oscar and Mata were all interchanging positions regularly under Di Matteo and the still do under Benitez, but a lot less frequently than before. Juan Mata now occupies a role in the centre, whereas before he was often played out to the right with Oscar in the hole. The Brazilian now spends much of his time on the right to give added protection to Cesar Azpilicueta who gets forward from full back.
The three are looking to play through balls for the number nine. Both Demba Ba and Fernando Torres have split time at the position, but with the Senegalese playing against Manchester United on Sunday, we’ll probably see Fernando Torres here.
Whereas Ba is a good hold up striker and target man, Torres prefers to run on to the ball through the channels. With us deploying a high line, the Spaniard could well be Benitez’s choice tonight with the three players behind him all adept at threading a pass for him.
How Chelsea create chances
Going forward Chelsea use their attacking midfielders to play in through balls for each other, the central striker and also runners from deep like Lampard and Ramires.
They play more down the right hand side than the left, with 60% of their crosses coming from this flank due to full back Cesar Azpilicueta jumping up in to the play. This gives them a tendency to try to get in through the inside right channel, which we can see from a couple of their recent home matches.
Against Swansea last week, Chelsea had plenty of success playing passes through the inside right channel. There were several longer balls put in from deep, but the overwhelming majority of chances were created by trying to play passes in through this zone.
A couple of weeks earlier at home to West Ham, they again played a number of vertical through balls, but also plenty of short cutbacks from Oscar on the right. The inside right channel was key and both goals were created from passes originating here.
The Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs needs to see us focus on stopping the Blues playing through balls here. Jan Vertonghen usually plays to this side of the central defensive pairing, but will need help from his full back on the cover.
Chelsea conceding through the right back zone
Whilst Chelsea create from through balls and most likely in the inside right channel, they also concede chances through their right full back zone. This is due to Cesar Azpilicueta getting forward to aid the attack.
If we look at an average position map from the game with West Ham, we can see how the Spaniard gets forward, much higher than Ashley Cole on the opposite flank. While this aids Chelsea in attack, it also leaves them open in transition, as West Ham created a number of opportunities from his side.
The Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs should focus on attacking any space in behind Azpilicueta. Moving Gareth Bale out to this side would be a way to do it.
Don’t forget about Fernando Torres
Fernando Torres is having another season to forget, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the Spaniard if he is selected tonight. As mentioned above he should get the nod due to his preference for running on to the ball, which Benitez will back against our high line.
Torres last started for Chelsea at home against Wigan, but he was heavily involved in the 4-1 destruction of the Latics that day and we can see how he likes to get in behind.
The Spaniard received several long vertical passes originating from the midfield up to or in to the Wigan box. Although he didn’t score, he did get 4 shots away, as well as create a goal. This in a nutshell sums up this season’s Fernando Torres. He still seems adept at running on to the ball, but he is opting to set others up as he doesn’t trust his shot. Torres has 7 goals in the Premier League and 9 assists, a far cry from the 18-20 goals and 3-5 assists man at Liverpool.
Whilst the Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs will key on stopping the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Mata, we shouldn’t forget about Fernando Torres trying to run in behind.
Chelsea vs Spurs outlook
This will be a tough ask to get anything at all from this game, as Chelsea are extremely difficult to beat at home. In the Premier League, only Southampton and QPR have left with anything from The Bridge in 2013. The Saints battled back to a draw, whilst QPR sat deep and managed to grab a winning goal from a set piece.
The team news that Moussa Dembele and Aaron Lennon have been included in the squad and may play is vital for Spurs. Whilst the Belgian is excellent at moving the ball forward through his dribble-drives, Lennon’s width and pace will be key in stretching the Chelsea defence.
Getting to Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar early will be the big factor in reducing the Chelsea threat. The trio pull the strings and provide the ammunition and we need to stop them threading in their usual through balls.
We did a decent job of stopping them in Spurs 2 Chelsea 4 at White Hart Lane. Our pressing, whilst also getting in to their passing lanes, meant we frequently intercepted the ball. This restricted them to just five chances; unfortunately they scored four times due to three defensive errors.
Chelsea have committed the fewest defensive errors in the Premier League during the 24 matches that Rafael Benitez has presided over, so we can’t afford any slip ups here.
Andre Villas-Boas describes the clash as a “wonderful opportunity” and a win would rival our victory at Old Trafford for performance of the season.
A lot of factors point to Chelsea winning 1-0 or 2-0, but I think there might just be a twist in the tale.
Chelsea vs Spurs prediction: Chelsea 2 Spurs 2.