It’s the start of a highly anticipated period of matches that will make or break our season and it gets underway with Chelsea vs Spurs in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho has taken his side to the top of the table and only Basel have beaten them at home this season, way back in September, making this a difficult opener.
Since then, ‘The Happy One’ has tightened his side up and they are now playing like the Mourinho teams of old. So, what can we expect at the Bridge and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs this time?
Chelsea’s counter attack
Jose Mourinho lines his side up in either a 4-2-3-1 or the fabled 4-3-3 that tends to come out in tricky away matches.
In both set ups he is looking for his side to play on the counter attack, breaking swiftly forward after creating turnovers. The amount of pressure that he has his team apply can vary. He can look for his side to grab a quick goal in order to knock an opponent on to the back foot or they can start off by trying to control the tempo.
What doesn’t change is that he has his front four apply the pressure – whether this is at the halfway line or higher up. The other six drop deeper in order to defend anything that gets through or hoover up any balls cleared downfield by the opposition. This creates two zones of ball recovery.
When possession is won back it is quickly moved forward in order to strike before the opponent can get set defensively and it’s effective. In Chelsea’s last home match, Everton controlled the possession by 53% to 47% but were out shot by 25 to 8.
Counter attacking balance
Chelsea can counter as the central striker and the three advanced midfielders are all extremely quick runners and it works due to the levels within the team balancing out.
On the left he combines a player who sits defensively in Cesar Azpilicueta, whilst Eden Hazard has freedom to jet forward and often roam. On the right, Branislav Ivanovic has licence to bomb on with a much better midfielder in the defensive phase in Willian ahead of him.
With this line-up on the field it’s no surprise to see the attacking success that Ivanovic was having recently, especially as Willian plays much deeper than Hazard does.
When Mourinho brings in a much more attack minded player who is less defensively minded, such as Andre Schurrle last weekend at Fulham. Then both full backs play with much more restraint as the advanced players are looking to get forward. This keeps the levels in the side balanced once more so they don’t over-commit.
The Belgian has become Chelsea’s most dangerous player. He is lightening-quick over the first ten yards, so he can be a real threat on the counter. He can also dribble and beat opponents, so can get in-behind teams with the ball at his feet. What’s more, this season he’s added goals to his game.
Hazard is also aided by having a defensively restrained Cesar Azpilicueta behind him. This allows him to influence the game by drifting across the field and often switch positions with the other two advanced midfielders.
From these positions, he can create overloads, skip past players or run in-behind, as Chelsea look to create from through balls and short crosses or cutbacks.
Very few teams have had success in stopping him, but in our Premier League game earlier this season, we did a decent job.
We went with a 4-3-3 and had Paulinho drift out to that side in the defensive phase to help Kyle Walker and Andros Townsend, who was playing high as a wide forward. This meant that we pushed Hazard back and restricted his touches in two areas by forcing him to come deeper and away from goal.
The Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs this time would see us do well to try something similar.
Chelsea creating chances
Chelsea look to create chances from through balls and this has two outcomes. It can either put a runner in to shoot directly at goal or it can get him in to a position whereby he can play a short cross from inside the box or cut the ball back.
Chelsea, and Eden Hazard especially, did this expertly against Newcastle in their recent 3-0 win.
West Ham somehow kept a clean sheet, as Chelsea played through balls toward the area or short crosses and pull backs from inside it, en route to a massive 39 shots.
The Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs here really has two choices.
Firstly you can drop off, sit deep and make yourself difficult to play through. This is a risky game; as if Chelsea scores then you have to come out, thus playing in to their counter attacking hands.
Secondly, you can press them early and often in order to force turnovers. This worked in part for Southampton at the bridge before they ran out of gas and succumbed 3-1. It also was successful for Everton in Chelsea’s last home match, but they too were edged out by a free kick right at the death.
Whichever approach is adopted, it’s important to get bodies in the middle of the park and clog the central channels to force Chelsea wide and become a crossing team. Either 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 would be a sensible set up here.
Chelsea conceding chances
After going through a bit of a defensive crisis earlier in the season, Mourinho’s side have conceded just 4 goals in their last 12 Premier League matches.
The arrival of Nemanja Matic has also helped in this run, as the Serbian is excellent at winning possession back and screening his defence.
Where Chelsea have conceded chances is if you can hit them quickly in transition through their right back zone. This is especially true if Branislav Ivanovic is caught forward in a more attack-minded role.
Everton created some decent chances from here in Chelsea’s last home Premier League match.
Whilst one of the few teams to score at Stamford Bridge recently, Crystal Palace, saw Marouane Chamakh notch from here, as well as miss another.
Although away from home, Galatasaray also showed Chelsea’s vulnerability in their right back zone, with their goal coming from a corner on this side.
Away teams haven’t had much success at the Bridge recently, but the Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs here need us to focus on attacking down our left. This is especially true if Ivanovic is caught forward in transition.
Chelsea vs Spurs outlook
It’s never easy going to Stamford Bridge, doubly so if you need to take something from the match.
Earlier in the season, Chelsea weren’t the well-organised Mourinho machine that they are now and therefore team selection and tactics will be crucial.
Chelsea will be looking to play on the counter with their through balls for runners to latch on to as they go through the central channels. The problem for us is that we’ve conceded space between the lines under Tim Sherwood and the Blues will exploit this if we don’t at least have a defensive midfielder in this area. Getting bodies in the centre and being compact is key.
They are vulnerable to teams that attack their right back zone though and we have plenty of pace in this area with either Andros Townsend or Nacer Chadli.
Tim Sherwood has seen this as a chance to derail Chelsea’s title hopes, but we can’t afford a performance like against Norwich or Cardiff if we’re to get anything here.
Chelsea vs Spurs prediction: Chelsea 2 Spurs 1.