Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League for this season’s fourth edition of this bitter London rivalry.
Spurs have edged the three previous contests with two wins and a defeat, and each game has been a fascinating watch. The Blues’ 3-1 defeat at Wembley Stadium in November was Maurizio Sarri’s first defeat as Chelsea manager, as Spurs showed the whole division how to play against ‘Sarriball’.
Both sides come into this game on the back of defeats and there is huge pressure on Sarri to get a result and keep his job for another week, at least.
This match is guaranteed to be fiery and competitive and there will be key battles all over the field, with Spurs looking to extend the gap between themselves and fourth place while Chelsea try to keep pace with Arsenal and Manchester United.
1. Marcos Alonso vs Son Heung-min
Alonso was left out of the cup final squad entirely as he watched Emerson Palmieri put in an impressive shift for 120 minutes. However, the extra time may have worked in the Spaniard’s favour as Sarri may be forced to call upon fresh legs on Wednesday.
Of the two full-backs, Son will probably be happy to line up against the former, as the Korean forward has already enjoyed himself against Alonso this season.
Alonso will push on at any opportunity, which more often than not leaves a gaping hole on Chelsea’s left side of defence – a space Alonso does not have the pace to recover and a space where Son can really hurt the Blues (as he he did at Wembley in November).
2. N’Golo Kante vs Harry Winks
Kante was exceptional against Manchester City on Sunday as he continues to flourish in his more advanced role for Chelsea. This position allows him to press the opposition and nick the ball off his counterparts high up the field.
Harry Winks will have to be sharp at all times if he is to get Spurs’ passing game going, with Kante constantly snapping at his heels.
Chelsea’s World Cup winner’s ability to drive through midfield and play in his forwards is often overlooked and this can be a dangerous weapon for the Blues.
3. Christian Eriksen vs Jorginho
Jorginho has earned his fair share of critics this season as he becomes regularly nullified by opponents’ tactics, leaving Chelsea to pass the ball sideways and backwards without any penetration.
The Italian metronome racks up a record number of passes week in, week out, but the number of incisive passes played by Jorginho are minimal. Christian Eriksen, on the other hand, only needs one pass to kill his opponent.
Eriksen is often influential against Chelsea, with two goals and seven assists in this fixture. Almost every team in the league has worked out how to deal with Jorginho, but does Sarro have a plan for Spurs’ Danish wizard?
4. Mauricio Pochettino vs Eden Hazard
Although Blues fans may have been frustrated to see Eden Hazard on the teamsheet in his unnatural false nine role on Sunday, Pep Guardiola would probably have expected Gonzalo Higuain to start up top.
City struggled to deal with Hazard all afternoon, and this may be because they didn’t know where he would play. How Pochettino chooses to combat the Belgian’s threat is likely to be very important to the outcome at Stamford Bridge.
Sarri could stick with the false nine system that worked so well (to an extent) at Wembley, or he could bring in an orthodox striker to allow Hazard to play his usual game. Pochettino’s guess is as good as any.