Get ready, guys. It's D-Day for Chelsea in the 2012-13 season. So much of our season appears to be riding on this match. Win, barring a minor miracle of goal difference, we're back in the Champions League. Lose, though, and we need to win both of our remaining games or hope a rival slips up to gain entry back in the top competition. Not only that, but it's an important London Derby against our bitterest local rival, whose manager is making his first trip to Stamford Bridge since being dismissed from the managers' post last season. Suffice it to say, this one's going to be interesting.
It's been 23 long years since Tottenham Hotspur have managed to claim a league win at Stamford Bridge. That's right. Spurs have never won at the Bridge in the Premier League era. It's been so long that, last time they accomplished the feat, Chelsea's owner was still a Soviet citizen. Normally, such a streak would leave me feeling confident, but this time it doesn't. You see, streaks like this have a way of ending under inconvenient circumstances. With the herd of narratives swirling around this match, it's a perfect occasion for the perfidious gods of football to spring a surprise. Coming a few days after a victory at Old Trafford would just be icing on the cake.
Still, though, this is a club we've never never allowed to beat us at home in 23 years, and one we beat 4-2 at their place earlier in the season. While it's true that Spurs were in disarray generally and missing their recently-crowned Double Player of the Year, and Chelsea were looking more fluent than at any other time this season, it was still a great win for Chelsea. On the day, they were easily the best side, despite a few scares along the way. In recent weeks, Chelsea have begun to find a semblance of that long-gone fluency again, and Spurs' form has been almost-entirely inspired by Gareth Bale.
We have one team in Chelsea getting hot again at the right time, and another in Spurs who are only clinging to Top Four relevance through the exploits of a single player. Any result is certainly possible, even beyond the sense that that's true in every match. The Blues should probably be considered the favourites, especially since two of the results, the win and the draw, have favourable implications for them, but I daren't tempt the gods of football with that kind of hubris. No matter what happens, however, it should be an exciting and interesting match. For the neutrals. Anybody with a vested interest is probably going to have a heart attack. Just FYI.
Chelsea Team News: John Obi Mikel is still absent with injury, as is Ryan Bertrand. Eden Hazard, who missed the previous match with United due to a minor calf strain sustained against FC Basel, should be back in the squad. Long-term absentee Oriol Romeu, somewhat-surprisingly, is in contention to feature at some point. He's almost-certainly not going to start, having been out most of the season, but there's every chance he could make the bench or see a few minutes as a substitute.
Tottenham Team News: Bale is fit, what else matters? Really, Bale is the biggest player for Spurs. Had Chelsea lost to United in the FA Cup Quarter Final and played this match on its original date, he wouldn't have been, but it is what it is. We've kept him at bay before. Moussa Dembele, Scott Parker, and Aaron Lennon are doubts, and Younes Kaboul, Sandro, and William Gallas will miss out.
Date and Time: Wednesday, 8 May 2013, 19:45 BST; 2:45pm EST; 00:15, 9 May IST.
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London
Referee: Mike Dean
Previous Meetings: Tottenham 2 - 4 Chelsea (20 October 2012)
Television Coverage: USA: FOX Soccer, FOX Deportes*. UK: Sky Sports 1. India: Star Sports India, ESPN HD India. (Other listings may be found here.) [*FOX Soccer 2 Go is, yet again, not an option for live viewing.]