Tottenham come to Stamford Bridge hoping to avenge their Wembley loss in August and, more importantly, put an almost impossible gap between themselves and Chelsea for the top four. A win puts them eight points ahead and that’s probably enough. A loss closes the gap to two and suddenly it’s squeaky bum time for them.
Chelsea are about as healthy as they’re going to get this season. Three players are definitely out, one of whom is 17 years old and shouldn’t have been counted on anyway. That’s Ethan Ampadu, sadly down with a broken ankle. Then there’s David Luiz’s chronic knee (we hope karma is a real thing, Sergio Aguero) and Ross Barkley’s delicately healing (healing?) hamstrings.
Antonio Conte tried the ol’ manager’s smokescreen with Thibaut Courtois and his hamstring, and fatigued Andreas Christensen, but it’s almost certain that they’ll play. It’s also worth noting that Tiémoué Bakayoko’s best performance of the season came in his debut, which happened to be the reverse fixture in August.
Two years ago Tottenham came in with swords drawn and proceeded to mow down every Chelsea player they could reach. Referee Mark Clattenburg showed an astonishing degree of cowardice and ego in refusing to hand out red cards, claiming he didn’t want to be blamed for Tottenham losing the title. If Spurs try the same thing this time around, we’re hopeful that Andre Marriner will show more intestinal fortitude. That’s a fancy way of saying guts, Andre.
So, when you pick your lineup, will you prioritize physicality or skill? Who’s your centre-forward, a revitalized Morata or the already-at home Giroud? It won’t be Hazard, right? Right?