With the chance to consolidate their hold on fourth place in the Premier League table, Tottenham Hotspur welcome Chelsea to North London for a capital derby on Sunday afternoon.
The Lilywhites ran out 2-0 winners over West Ham United in their most recent contest, while the Blues’ misfortune continued in a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton.
While former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte is unlikely to take the reins against his former club as he continues to recover from gallbladder surgery, Cristian Stellini‘s perfect record in charge remains intact – going three for three during the visit of West Ham last weekend.
The only noteworthy event of a dull opening 45 was West Ham escaping another controversial handball penalty claim – Spurs and Chelsea can empathise with each other there – but ‘Second Half FC’ came to the fore as Emerson Royal and Son Heung-min sent Spurs into the Champions League spots.
With fifth-placed Newcastle United and third-placed Manchester United doing battle in the EFL Cup final later on Sunday, this weekend’s London derby is a magnificent opportunity for Spurs to steer clear of the Magpies and reduce the gap to the Red Devils – who will subsequently have a game in hand – to just four points.
Trying to predict which version of Tottenham will show up every weekend is a fool’s errand, but Spurs are now on the brink of winning three successive Premier League home games with clean sheets for the first time since 2019, and not since December 2021 have the Lilywhites drawn a league match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Conte will no doubt be keeping a watchful eye on proceedings from his Italian base this weekend, having been at the centre of a heated exchange with Thomas Tuchel back in August’s Stamford Bridge draw, but the German’s replacement is falling victim to the poisoned chalice.
A fourth game without victory in the top flight leaves Chelsea mired in mid-table obscurity in 10th place – 11 points worse off than their upcoming opponents – but Todd Boehly is reportedly still continuing to back Potter, even if some members of the board do not share his sentiment.
However, the Englishman can only boast a paltry three wins from his last 16 games in charge of the Blues, who cannot rise any higher up the rankings no matter what transpires this weekend, and scoring just three goals in their last nine matches in all tournaments is simply unacceptable for a club of Chelsea’s calibre.
The visitors’ form on the road makes for incredibly bleak reading too, as they have embarrassingly failed to win any of their last nine away games since beating Red Bull Salzburg in October, but August’s fiery 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge extended Chelsea’s unbeaten run against Spurs to a respectable six matches.
There has been little movement in the Tottenham treatment room of late, with Rodrigo Bentancur, Yves Bissouma, Hugo Lloris and Ryan Sessegnon all still sidelined, and the former has now undergone successful surgery on his ACL rupture – likely rendering him unavailable until November.
Emerson’s redemption arc continued in last weekend’s London derby, and the Brazilian should therefore continue to hold off Pedro Porro in the right-wing back slot, while Oliver Skipp ought to win the battle to partner Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the centre.
Utilising Ben Davies in the left-wing back area also paid dividends for Stellini against West Ham, and having scored off the bench for the fourth time in the Premier League this term, Son – who was not at 100% before last Sunday’s game – can expect to immediately displace Richarlison.
Meanwhile, the result of Chelsea’s clash with Southampton was somewhat overshadowed by Cesar Azpilicueta‘s serious head injury, but the Spaniard has now been discharged from hospital and is recovering back home.
Armando Broja, Christian Pulisic and Edouard Mendy are keeping Azpilicueta company in the treatment room, but the Blues have received a huge double boost with N’Golo Kante, who is now back in team training and reportedly on the verge of signing a new deal.
Kante will not be considered for minutes just yet, but Potter will be expected to consider significant alterations either way, with Mykhaylo Mudryk, Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz targeting returns to the final third, while Thiago Silva and Reece James should be fit enough to start at the back as well.
Tottenham Hotspur possible starting lineup:
Forster; Romero, Dier, Lenglet; Emerson, Skipp, Hojbjerg, Davies; Kulusevski, Kane, Son
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; James, Silva, Badiashile, Chilwell; Kovacic, Fernandez; Mudryk, Felix, Sterling; Havertz..