Chelsea match preview
It’s probably the most anticipated match for all Chelsea season ticket holders when the fixture list is announced and, with the Champions League race appearing to slip away from Chelsea’s grasp, there’s an extra layer of significance to an already massive fixture.
The victory over Leicester in the FA Cup prior to the international break ensured there are two main objectives going into the business end of the season.
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Both must be met to consider this a decent season, with abject failure to defend the league title and limp exit in the Champions League putting extra significance on winning the FA Cup and making sure an assault on next year’s edition of the Champions League is possible.
Two fixtures at home to Tottenham on Sunday, and Liverpool in the penultimate game of the season, are likely to be decisive. Victory on Sunday is therefore vital, for more reasons than just bragging rights.
Record against Spurs
Tottenham have failed to win at Stamford Bridge in my lifetime, a record of over 30 matches spanning back to February 1990. If that changes, the likelihood of Chelsea qualifying for next season’s Champions League falls drastically, as that would put us eight points behind our London rivals with eight games to play.
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A disappointing season so far can be somewhat resurrected on Easter weekend. Victory could revitalise a league campaign that has slipped away for us since a good run in November and December initially looked to have consolidated a comfortable position in the top four.
Tottenham’s previous two visits to the Bridge have seen them take the lead on both occasions before moments of brilliance turned the game in our favour.
Eden Hazard’s strike in 2016 put the final nail in Tottenham’s title challenge, while Pedro’s stunner in the corresponding fixture last season was followed by Victor Moses’ goal to continue our exceptional winning streak.
Someone in our ranks needs to follow that lead and take on the mantle to ensure this doesn’t become the first team in my lifetime to lose at home to Tottenham. On current form, Willian is the most likely man to do that.
His form since the turn of the year has been one of few positives in 2018, and he can cement his status as a fan favourite with a continuation of his goalscoring touch. The Brazilian, along with Hazard, are the men I believe can turn this tight match in our favour.
Predicted line up
Antonio Conte has a couple of selection dilemmas, particularly in goal where Thibaut Courtois has suffered plenty of wholly justifiable criticism following his horror show in Barcelona.
His deputy, Willy Caballero, has impressed every time he’s filled in and many Chelsea fans would rather see the Argentine between the sticks. The other major question for Conte is in central midfield, where it’s likely to be a decision of Tiemoue Bakayoko or Cesc Fabregas.
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Bakayoko was once again hooked at half-time in the FA Cup, while Fabregas’ lack of dynamism is a worry for Conte in a two-man midfield. The rest of the side picks itself, with Alvaro Morata likely to start upfront after ending his drought against Leicester.
3-4-3: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard.
Opposition danger man
Heung-min Son - Son has been one of the stars of Tottenham’s season, quite probably their best player besides talisman Harry Kane.
Kane is likely to be ruled out of this clash with injury, and therefore it’s likely Son will play up top as a deep-lying striker.
The South Korean is an excellent finisher with both feet, as well as having a tendency to find space in congested areas. He is a real goal threat and the man most likely to break down the Chelsea defence.
Get Son to score first @ 15/2
Betting tips and predictions
A tight game is almost certain, with two evenly matched sides locking horns. Kane’s absence could be a decisive factor, with Spurs’ talisman elevating their level in these big games with his sheer individual quality.
Without Kane, I make Chelsea slight favourites and a Blues win at 11/8 represents good value. Value can also be found in a slender score prediction.
Get Chelsea to win 1-0 @ 15/2
I anticipate a tight, nervy affair between two well-matched teams, but I believe Tottenham's hoodoo at Stamford Bridge will continue for at least one more match.
Get a 2-2 draw @ 13/1