Chelsea’s hopes of maintaining a title challenge this season have evaporated in recent weeks, with the Blues winning just one of their last seven in the Premier League, picking up just three points from their last four matches during a disappointing run. The Blues fought back to claim a point in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the start of the month but suffered a damaging 1-0 loss to Manchester City in the league last weekend before being held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex on Tuesday night.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are now third in the table, 12 points behind leaders Man City, who have a game in hand, while the European Cup holders are eight points clear of fifth-placed Spurs, who have four matches in hand, so their position in the Champions League spots is far from secure. Chelsea have already beaten Tottenham twice this month, though, recording a 2-0 victory in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge before winning the reverse match in North London 1-0.
The Blues have also won their last four games against Spurs in all competitions, including a 3-0 success at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium back in September, while they are unbeaten against the North London club in England’s top flight since November 2018.
Tottenham were involved in an incredible match against Leicester City on Wednesday; Conte’s side were losing 2-1 until the 95th minute of the match, when Steven Bergwijn levelled the scores, before the Netherlands international came up with a winner for the capital side in the 97th minute. The 3-2 success made it three wins in their last four Premier League matches, while Spurs are still unbeaten in England’s top flight since Conte’s arrival as head coach, with the Italian winning six and drawing three of his nine league fixtures at the helm. Tottenham’s position in the table is even more impressive considering that they have a number of games to make up due to COVID-19-related postponements, and the North London side could end the weekend in fourth depending on what happens between Manchester United and West Ham United on Saturday.
Conte will certainly know what to expect at Stamford Bridge, with the 52-year-old managing the Blues between 2016 and 2018, delivering one Premier League title and one FA Cup, and there is no question that he will be determined to get one over on his old club this weekend. Spurs have certainly had their problems this season but securing a top-four spot would have to go down as a positive campaign, while they can still secure cup success this season, with Brighton their opponents in the next round of the FA Cup at the start of February.
Chelsea have been boosted by the news that Trevor Chalobah and Reece James have both returned to training following recent injuries, but neither player will be considered for selection this weekend. Ben Chilwell is out for the remainder of the season following knee surgery, while Andreas Christensen (COVID-19) and Edouard Mendy (international duty) will again miss out for the home side.
Tuchel has a number of big decisions to make when it comes to his team selection, and there is a chance that a return to a back three could open the door for Malang Sarr to feature, while Timo Werner and Mateo Kovacic, who were substitutes against Brighton, could be in line for starting roles this weekend. As for Spurs, Eric Dier is available for selection once again following injury, but Son Heung-min and Cristian Romero will be absent until after the winter break.
Conte has admitted that his side have a couple of “fresh injuries” but has not named those impacted, with the Italian needing to assess the fitness of his squad following the Leicester clash. Bergwijn could again miss out on a spot in the XI despite his brace against the Foxes, with Lucas Moura expected to feature alongside Harry Kane in a front two, while a midfield five may include both Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp; Dier should also be back in defence, potentially replacing Japhet Tanganga.
NAME: Chelsea – Tottenham
DATE: 23 Jan 2022
TIME: 16:30 UTC
VENUE: Stamford Bridge, London, England