The long international break comes to an emphatic close for Chelsea on Sunday. “Lads, it’s Tottenham” may be a common joke first told by Sir Alex Ferguson, but if Chelsea don’t win, the joke could be on us. Spurs are sitting inside the top-four and Europe, we’re five points behind and running out of time to close the gap.
Has there ever been a match against Tottenham at the Bridge that meant as much? Hmmm, let me think. For one nanosecond, that is. The Battle of the Bridge in 2016 shall live in infamy and Chelsea lore as one of the great games in this rivalry. It was brutal, it was glorious and it was satisfying as Chelsea came from 0-2 behind to draw 2-2 and put the nail in the coffin of Tottenham’s hopes for a first league title since 1961. We were the toast of Leicester.
That match was just 1 of 30 straight that Spurs have failed to win (in any competition) at Stamford Bridge over the past 28 years. I hesitate to bring up this statistic, because the last time anyone mentioned Messi’s scoreless streak against us, he scored three times in the next two matches. So touch wood, cross your fingers; we need this one.
Date / Time: Sunday, April 1, 2018, 16:00 BST; 11:00am EDT; 8:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, England
Referee: Andre Marriner — the last time he handled this match-up at Stamford Bridge was in 2011. Chelsea won 2-1 on a late Salomon Kalou strike. Gary “It’s a clear foul. I’m frustrated. Come on, seriously! You could be sat on the moon and see it is a clear foul” Cahill isn’t a fan after Marriner ignored two heel clips on him and allowed a Swansea goal to stand in a draw in Wales last season. This will be Marriner’s fourth Chelsea match this season, which include a loss to Palace and wins over Hull (FA Cup) and Huddersfield.
Forecast: Nice football weather, really. Temperature 11°C (52°F), winds 17 km/h (11mph). Partly cloudy.
On TV: Sky Sports (UK); NBCSN, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select HD 1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India)
Chelsea team news : Both managers are playing coy about the health of key players, trying to upset the other’s preparations. Andreas Christensen (fatigue) and Thibaut Courtois (thigh strain) were sent home by their national teams. Conte claims they’re both game-time decisions. David Luiz (knee) is definitely out for three more weeks and Ross Barkley (hamstring) is being eased back into shape with the development team on Saturday.
Tottenham Hotspur team news: On Thursday, Mauricio Pochettino was deliberately vague Harry Kane’s recovery from a bad ankle sprain.
“We need to assess him, it is still a few days until the game. I think it is difficult now to say yes or no, to be involved or not in the game.
”I cannot say no but I cannot say yes. If not this weekend, maybe next weekend, but the most important thing is we are so positive about his recovery. He is doing fantastic.
-Mauricio Pochettino; source: SkySports
Kane has been photographed standing comfortably without a brace. Go time? He’d never miss this one if he could help it. But it’s worth noting that Son Heung-min has scored seven goals in his last five matches in all competitions. Elsewhere, Toby Alderweireld (hamstring) missed Tottenham’s last 20 matches, but he played all 90 for Belgium against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. Dele Alli reportedly had a groin strain while training with England, but Poch says he looks fine in training.
Last time: Tiémoué Bakayoko made his Chelsea debut with a gimpy knee and showed why Chelsea believed in him as the Blues took a 2-1 win at Wembley in August. A lot has changed since then for both teams. But not Marco’s Alonso’s free kicks. The same result would do us nicely.