Chelsea and Tottenham will face each other three times this January within an interval of two weeks: The EFL Cup semifinal two legs and the premier league. This fixture is the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final, with the reverse fixture to be played a week after.
Why You Should Be Watching?
Conte is yet to lose a game in the Premiership nor in the EFL Cup since his arrival in the London club. The major pursuit of Tottenham is not good performances or beautiful football as they had that under Pochettino but trophies. And under Conte it is almost assured he would deliver both: good football and trophies. However, Tuchel’s Chelsea despite their recent woes could make life difficult for their London rivals. It is to be seen if this will be Conte’s first loss in England as a Tottenham manager.
Conte would be returning to Stanford Bridge for the first time since leaving the blues in 2018. Tuchel has had a handful of situations to deal with in the last few weeks with the latest being the interview of Lukaku going viral on social media. Chelsea was able to rescue a draw against Liverpool on Sunday, however, Chalobah who was managed for the game had to be substituted for a supposed hamstring injury and would definitely be out for this fixture. Mendy traveled after the Liverpool game to represent Senegal in AFCON 2022. Ziyech also will not be available for similar reasons.
First-choice wingbacks, Ben Chilwell and Reece James are still out for a long time. There would be a little rotation from the game against Liverpool as Christensen may step in for Chalobah; Werner could start, or have some minutes in the second half as he has been spotted in training; Lukaku might also lead the line as Tuchel claims that things have been talked through; Odoi might also have some minutes as Mount could be rested as he has played a worrisome amount of minutes after coming back from injury.
Asides from Sessegson and Steve Bergwijn, Conte can boast of a complete squad. Sessegnon has been absent from the squad since the game against Liverpool. He is well into recovery but the game against Chelsea could be too soon for him. However, Bergwijn’s injury seems more serious – a calf injury that could see him out for some weeks. It’s likely we see the trio of Son, Kane, and Moura, except Conte, wants to juice it up once again with the inclusion of Dele Alli as we saw against Liverpool.
Players to Watch Out for?
Yes, Kepa. Over the last few years, he has been under a lot of scrutinies due to the fact that he is the World’s most expensive goalkeeper. He has put on a lot of decent performances recently especially in the Carabao’s Cup but can he withstand the firepower of the rejuvenated Tottenham frontline. Tottenham will definitely have chances but could Kepa stand up to the challenge. It would spell doom for Chelsea if Kepa starts this long period of Mendy’s absence with a shabby display. In fact, the 72 million men could try to re-affirm the number one shirt or at least give Tuchel a difficult time when Mendy arrives from AFCON.
Last weekend, we saw Kovacic at his best. He was close to perfection. He controlled the midfield for most of the game. Now, he will be playing against the physical midfield of Conte as against the tactical midfield of Klopp. If Kovacic can reproduce the same performance, Chelsea could go ahead in this two-legged tie.
It is general knowledge that Son best is seen in counter-attacks. Conte as we also know implements swift counter-attacking plays in every team he ventures. We saw it with Chelsea, then Inter Milan, and now Tottenham. The transitioning is so quick that in seconds the ball has moved from defense to Son and then you know what next. Bang Bang. Chelsea must be wary of Son and the counter-attack threat he poses, especially alongside Harry Kane.
His form under Conte has been very good. He combines well with the wing-backs, evades players with his quick feet, and contributes massively to goals by either scoring or assisting. Tottenham would need all that he’s got to get a good result at Stanford Bridge.
It is common to see Tottenham at these stages of competitions but uncommon to see them progress. Could Conte change the narrative?
Also, this is a chance for Tuchel to advance to his fourth final since arriving at Chelsea about a year ago (there is a second leg though). Chelsea or Tottenham, who would have the advantage going into the second leg?
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