The Big Match

Blues set to roll past shaken Spurs

Tottenham's poor run compounded by bans and injuries, dimming chances of revenge

It was the night Tottenham lost their English Premier League (EPL) title chances and their cool, a Monday in May when Eden Hazard scored an equaliser for Chelsea that rendered Leicester champions.

It was the Battle of Stamford Bridge, a 2-2 draw where Spurs collected nine yellow cards - an EPL record - plus a six-match ban for Mousa Dembele for gouging Diego Costa in the eye.

They may deny they have revenge on their minds in a rematch, but it adds further spice to a derby that often tends to be eventful.

Today something has to give: Either Chelsea's six-match winning run comes to an end against bitter rivals or Tottenham lose the only unbeaten record in English league football.

The chances are the latter will happen. Tottenham were a few minutes from defeat by West Ham last week, salvaging what is their only win in nine games in all competitions. They then departed the Champions League in humiliating fashion.

Morale is bound to be affected, while their squad are being stretched as their deficiencies have been exposed.

Already without their best centre-back, Toby Alderweireld, they may have to play his usual partner, Jan Vertonghen, at left-back to cover for the banned Danny Rose and the injured Ben Davies.

The in-form Costa should relish a meeting with a second-string central defensive duo of Eric Dier and Kevin Wimmer.

Chelsea have confounded a series of opponents by playing an unconventional but highly effective 3-4-2-1 formation. However, Spurs have had a dress rehearsal. They faced West Ham, who deploy the same shape, last week.

Mauricio Pochettino started off fielding a midfield diamond, which did not work, and eventually prospered after a switch to 4-2-3-1, the system he should use today.

He has tried three formations in two games, caused in part by a struggle to find his best midfield. Erik Lamela has been injured, while Dembele, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko have found their optimum form elusive.

Tottenham have become increasingly reliant upon a quartet who have comprised the spine of the side: Harry Kane, Victor Wanyama, Vertonghen and the outstanding goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Predicting Pochettino's team is tricky, picking Antonio Conte's easy.

Chelsea should name the same starting XI for the sixth successive league game. A rare year out of Europe has its benefits: they are superbly well drilled, fresher, faster and fitter than opponents. Their last three home matches have finished 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0 respectively.

If that suggests Tottenham will be hit for six, it is worth remembering Spurs have the division's most frugal defence and only West Ham have even scored twice against them.

However, frugality was based upon first-choice players. Now too many are missing, out of form or out of position. Chelsea should eye a magnificent seventh straight win.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline 'Blues set to roll past shaken Spurs'. Print Edition | Subscribe