Opposition Scouting Report: Tottenham

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The major talking point of Tottenham v Chelsea is inevitably Andre Villas-Boas v Jose Mourinho, but recent fixtures between the two sides have already proved fascinating, largely because of lots of goals: six back in October, four in March.

It probably won't be as high-scoring this time round, because Mourinho is more pragmatic and Tottenham have been impressive defensively this season, conceding just one goal in the league - although that was in their last London derby, and last defeat, against Arsenal.

The key feature of that fixture was Santi Cazorla creating overloads in between the lines, before releasing the speedy Theo Walcott in behind. Tottenham have also had difficulties controlling Chelsea's central playmaker previously: Juan Mata enjoyed darting either side of Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone under Rafa Benitez, while Roberto Di Matteo deployed Oscar centrally, which invited Mata and Eden Hazard into central positions from where they overwhelmed Tottenham's back four.

Neither Parker nor Huddlestone are longer at Tottenham, and Mourinho has clearly stated that "Oscar is my number ten" - so the latter match feels more pertinent. Oscar's a very selfless player and his defensive discipline accommodates the natural tendency of all of Chelsea's attacking midfielders to drift centrally. The budding partnership between Paulinho and Moussa Dembele - both take turns getting forward, but mix that with calm, intelligent distribution - will be in for a tough test.

The two central defenders, meanwhile, will primarily be concerned with Chelsea's central striker. Mourinho effectively has four different options: the intelligent movement and runs but rustiness of Samuel Eto'o, the unpredictable but promising Fernando Torres, or the more physical, ‘basic' Demba Ba. The latter two both featured midweek, so Eto'o seems likely - and he'll have an important defensive duty in preventing Jan Vertonghen from playing incisive forward passes out from the back. The Belgian is a little like Chelsea's own David Luiz in that respect, but he's more measured and calmer with his positioning.

Michael Dawson, captain, feels more like a weak link, and Eto'o, who already naturally works that left-sided channel, will try to drag him out of defence by moving towards the play, before quickly turning and spinning in behind. In that respect, Hugo Lloris, Spurs' goalkeeper, is notable for his remarkable acceleration and willingness to dart out of his box, sweeping up behind his defenders.

Higher up the pitch, Tottenham's best source of creativity is playmaker Christian Eriksen, who's enjoyed a fine start to life in London. Blessed with wonderfully quick feet and excellent vision, he's more of a classic playmaker, operating in the middle of a 4-2-3-1, and will hover in predominantly central zones. It'll be the responsibility of the double pivot - probably John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard - to track him between the lines.

If Eriksen isn't involved in build-up play, expect Tottenham's attack to feel heavily wing-focused: the two deeper midfielders like to work the ball sideways across the pitch, and Villas-Boas seems like he enjoys creating 1v1 and 2v1 situations down the flanks.

In terms of personnel, there is Aaron Lennon - who collects balls to feet before dribbling around the outside of defenders - but he's just returned from a foot injury, and besides, Nacer Chadli is better suited to Tottenham's formation, cutting inside from wide positions and makes runs behind full-backs.

However, in their last two Premier League games, Tottenham has started with Gylfi Sigurdsson on the left, a right-footer who normally plays centrally and so naturally drifts inside. In fact, his substitute appearance against Chelsea back in March was partly the catalyst for Tottenham's two goal comeback, as he combined well with Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Emmanuel Adebayor in a neat triangle down Chelsea's right flank, which lead to Sigurdsson's equaliser.

Sigurdsson's narrowness wasn't a problem against Norwich, because it was complemented by Danny Rose overlapping on the outside - but with Rose injured against Cardiff, the more conservative Kyle Naughton stayed at home, and Tottenham's attack became far more congested. Rose should start here, being rated a "90% chance by Villas-Boas", which is important - without him, Tottenham suffer for width.

The problem can be exacerbated by the tendency of the right-winger to also cut inside. Erik Lamela will eventually became first-choice on that wing, but Villas-Boas has been keen to slowly integrate him into the team. That has given Andros Townsend an opportunity to impress, to mixed results - his direct style means he frequently dribbles past defenders, but his tendency to take on speculative long shots often flies wide of the mark.

Lamela, meanwhile, is similar in style but a little more productive, scoring fifteen goals for Roma last season largely due to his ability to move inside onto his left foot and slalom past defenders. Therefore, regardless of who starts, Ashley Cole's job will be the same: to prevent his opponent from shifting the ball onto their preferred foot, sticking tight to his marker and following them inside, even into ridiculous positions - something he's done frequently in the past.

Kyle Walker often makes poor decisions, but his pace and power going forward can't be ignored: it wouldn't be surprising if Mourinho chose to start Andre Schurrle on the left, although Eden Hazard's defensive ability has improved significantly.

Up front, you'd expect Tottenham's marquee striker signing, Roberto Soldado, to start - rarely involved in build-up play but makes clever near-post runs to meet low crosses inside the box - but Jermain Defoe should feature at some point, having scored (and impressed) in Tottenham's 4-0 win over Aston Villa midweek. Defoe's acceleration is impressive, and he makes angled runs in behind centre-backs: ideal for a playmaker that likes to chip balls over the top, and for quick counter-attacks.

Emmanuel Adebayor, of course, scored and assisted in the last two fixtures between these two sides, but that was atypical of his season, out of form often appearing disinterested - which is why he's been "Anelka'd" to Tottenham's reserves, and is unlikely to feature here.

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