The Premier League's festive period saved the best for last, with the suddenly quite feisty rivalry between Spurs and Chelsea completing the most hectic period in any top professional football league around the world.
Since most of us have been alive, this rivalry has been defined by Chelsea not losing at Stamford Bridge and winning quite regularly at
White Hart Three Point Lane. The record books will show that is still the case — Chelsea have lost to Spurs just five times in the Abramovich Era in 32 tries, once in the League Cup final and four times at White Hart Lane — but this one does have a slightly different feel about it.
Jan Vertonghen has claimed that the rivalry is now as big as the classic North London Derby they have against Arsenal, and given the recent history (the 5-3 Chelsea loss two years ago; the 2-2 Battle of the Bridge last season; even the 2-1 Chelsea comeback just a few months ago), that's probably not such a bold statement. Add in the massive stakes at hand, with Chelsea's chance to set a new Premier League record for most wins in a row in a single season and Spurs' chance to halt Chelsea's title charge and revitalize the title-race for themselves and the rest of the top 6, and we're no doubt in for a real doozy.
Date / Time: Wednesday, January 4, 2017, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: White Hart Lane, London, England
Referee: Martin Atkinson — this will be Chelsea match number 40 for the man who's usually a good omen when we play Arsenal, but less so for everything else more recently: Chelsea have won just two of the nine games he refereed in 2015 and 2016. The last two of those nine came this season, the 2-1 home loss to Liverpool and the 4-0 home win over Manchester United. Atkinson last refereed a meeting of Blues and Lilywhites in the 2012 FA Cup semifinal. (Chelsea won 5-1, as I'm sure you know.)
Forecast: Clear skies, frosty hearts, who will lose?
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBCSN, NBC Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Star Sports
Tottenham Hotspur team news: Mauricio Pochettino has credited Spurs' loss at Stamford Bridge as a sort of turning point to their season — sure enough, having won just once in nine prior to losing to Chelsea, they have won six of seven since, scoring a rather impressive 21 goals and conceding just 5. They've won back-to-back 4-1 games against Southampton and Watford and have won four in a row since losing to Mourinho's Manchester United. Chelsea may be on a roll, but Spurs are fairly buttered as well.
Spurs are also the first team to face Chelsea for a second time since Conte unveiled his all-conquering 3-4-3, and they already caused plenty of problems the first time around. Some might argue that their heavy press was never going to be sustainable, but Chelsea were certainly having plenty of issues with it before Pedro's moment of magic restored balance to the universe. Pochettino & Co will no doubt draw plenty of inspiration and confidence from that first-half performance.
There's also a decent chance that Spurs will switch to a 3-4-3 in this one and try to match Chelsea in more than one phase of the game. Their midfield duo of Wanyama and Dembélé are rather big and can be rather scary, their wingbacks of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are perhaps the best in England right now, while the potential front three of Dele, Kane, and Eriksen are firing on all cylinders at the moment. We witnessed first-hand what an in-form Kane can do in that famous 5-3 of two years ago; he will have to be very carefully marshaled in all shooting and semi-shooting situations.
Spurs are healthy (except for Erik Lamela), mostly rested — they, like Chelsea, have had a bit more rest this holiday period than most other Premier League teams — and raring to go.
View from the enemy: Cartilage Free Captain
Chelsea team news: Chelsea are also fully healthy, supposedly, though David Luiz and Marcos Alonso probably could use a bit of rest to fully recuperate from their knocks (which they will probably get this coming weekend in the FA Cup match versus Peterborough). Nemanja Matić got the rest on Saturday while Pedro missed out through suspension; I'd expect both of them to be back in the starting lineup.
Chelsea have won a club record 10 in a row in all competitions and are working on a 13-match winning streak in the Premier League, which has matched Arsenal's record from 2001-02. Arsenal also hold the record for most consecutive wins over two seasons with 14, which Chelsea now have a chance of meeting/breaking. But more importantly than that, a win would put the Blues eight points clear of second place Liverpool as we head into the second half of the season.
Previously: The 2-1 comeback at the Bridge, with a stellar performance from Victor Moses, a repeat of which could be more than handy today.