What: English Premier League
Who: Chelsea vs Tottenham
When: Wednesday 8th May, 2013, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England
Top Four In Sight For Chelsea
Juan Mata’s deflected finish at Old Trafford on Sunday secured Chelsea a priceless three points that look like giving them the edge in the tight race for Champions League places as the season comes towards an end. The Blues are now one point ahead of Arsenal and three in front of Tottenham. With Arsenal having played a game more than both, the clash between Chelsea and Spurs takes on huge importance for all three teams. Both Chelsea and Tottenham will be going in search of three invaluable points, whilst the Gunners will be cheering on any wasted time in anticipation of a draw.
Chelsea should enjoy the benefits of the psychological boost that will come with victory at Old Trafford. It was a strange game, littered with errors for the most part, but the Blues were the better side overall and now know that two wins from three will give them a guaranteed top four spot.
It all seems a far cry from the weeks after Rafael Benitez’s appointment, as Chelsea lurched from public relations disaster to various cup exits. Yet the Spaniard’s canny squad rotation policy has kept his team ticking over in spite of an exhausting fixture pile up. The coming weeks could yet end with a trophy and a Champions League spot for the Blues, which would give them a great end to what has been a difficult season.
Andre Villas-Boas Returns To Stamford Bridge
Andre Villas-Boas returns to the club which unceremoniously fired him 14 months ago looking for revenge, although the Portuguese will undoubtedly deny any such motivation drives him against his old team. But there would be a certain irony about Villas-Boas returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time and hammering a decisive blow into Chelsea’s top four ambitions at the expense of his own Tottenham side.
Spurs’ 1-0 win over Southampton at the weekend owed so much again to Gareth Bale, the forward driving at the Saints defence before curling an unstoppable effort into the back of the net against his former team. Bale now has 20 goals this season and few could be more vital come the end of the campaign.
The flip side is that Tottenham were unimpressive against the Saints. They were on the back foot for long periods and the visitors could count themselves unlucky not just to lose, but to not take all three points. In mitigation for Tottenham, Southampton have outplayed all the top teams during the second half of this season, from Manchester United to Liverpool. But Villas-Boas knows his team will have to play a lot better against Chelsea to keep their top four hopes intact.
Chelsea 2-0 Swansea (28/04; Premier League)
Chelsea 3-1 Basel (02/05; Europa League)
Manchester United 0–1 Chelsea (05/05; Premier League)
Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Manchester City (21/04; Premier League)
Wigan Athletic 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur (27/04; Premier League)
Tottenham Hotspur 1–0 Southampton (04/04; Premier League)
Chelsea: Eden Hazard (doubt); Oriol Romeu; Marko Marin
Tottenham Hotspur: Aaron Lennon (doubt); Moussa Dembele (doubt); Scott Parker (doubt); Sandro; William Gallas; Younes Kaboul
Players to watch
Chelsea – Juan Mata: Tottenham have been labelled a one-man side by many this season but if anything, Chelsea are even more reliant on Juan Mata than their opponents are on Gareth Bale. Placing such emphasis on the contribution of one individual tends to be a tactically ignorant way to approach the game though, but there is no doubting Mata’s huge contribution to Chelsea this season. He has set up more goals than anyone in the league and has also scored 19 in all competitions for his team. He lifts Chelsea when he is on his best form and another good display could be telling.
Tottenham Hotspur – Gareth Bale: Bale’s importance was underlined once again at the weekend and it is impossible to look beyond him as a match winner. Particularly with Moussa Dembele and Aaron Lennon doubtful, Bale’s importance is only heightened going into this game, with Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor struggling to provide the goals for Tottenham. He has the ability to make something happen out of absolutely nothing and that could well end up being the difference between a top four spot or not for Spurs.
It is hard to know how to read this game after both sides’ respective matches at the weekend. Chelsea deserved their win at Old Trafford, but then again it was one of Manchester United’s worst performances of the season with a weakened side. And Chelsea still made plenty of mistakes themselves. Tottenham overcame an impressive Southampton display to edge their clash.
There were signs that Chelsea are looking tired after their busy fixture schedule of late, and with an extra day to prepare along with Villas-Boas’ emphasis on a fast paced high pressing game, Tottenham are likely to play on the front foot.
Chelsea of course can play and pass it around themselves and this game should be extremely close as well as tense, with both sides looking for a crucial winner. There is more pressure on Tottenham though. Bale may occupy Ramires’ attentions and drag the Brazilian into wide areas, which could open up space for the visitors to exploit against Mikel. However with Moussa Dembele and Aaron Lennon both struggling to be fit, Tottenham may lack the dynamism necessary to make the breakthrough. Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur.
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