Premier League Tactical Preview: Chelsea v Tottenham


This Saturday Spurs travel to West London to take on Premier League pace-setters Chelsea.

The Blues can extend their league at the top of the Premier League to seven points if they win this clash, really putting some breathing space between themselves and the chasing pack.

On the other hand, Spurs can take advantage of the fact that Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool all do not play in the league this weekend to close the gap in their bid for a top four finish.

 

Possible line-ups

Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns but will rotate again. Andre Schurrle will continue after his cool hat-trick versus Fulham which means Oscar should go down to the bench in place of Willian. Samuel Eto'o has scored all six of his league goals at home and will return for Fernando Torres, whilst Ramires will partner Nemanja Matic in central midfield.

Spurs are without several long term absentees. Kyle Walker and Younes Kaboul will continue to miss out at the back. Zeki Fryers is expected to starts again so it should be the same back four that featured in the 1-0 victory over Cardiff.


Where can Spurs' goals come from?

One major concern for Spurs going into this game is the question of where their goals will come from. Chelsea boast the best defensive record in the Premier League having conceded just 22 goals this season, whilst Spurs have scored just 37, the joint least amount scored by any team in the top eight of the Premier League.

Spurs have simply struggled for goals this season and going to a side who don't concede many makes it even more problematic. One major issue has been the problems faced by Roberto Soldado, whose goal at the weekend was only his second scored from open play in the Premier League this season. Emmanuel Adebayor's eight strikes in 13 league games masked this problem, but there is still a feeling that this Spurs team do not offer enough of a goal threat. That being said, they did come to Chelsea and score twice there last season, albeit with a team that were one Gareth Bale stronger.

The inability to fit Christian Eriksen into the side (although he has been injured lately) has been an issue, as he is the most obvious creative player. Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend offer pace and directness but neither are close to offering the same degree of creativity and cutting edge as Eriksen.

The Spurs midfield can at times appear more workmanlike than creative or progressive, this has been the case since Luka Modric left the club, without ever really being replaced.


Will nullifying Hazard nullify Chelsea?

Until Schurrle hit three goals past Fulham last weekend there was a feeling that Chelsea were becoming over-reliant on Eden Hazard for goals. The Belgian is the club’s top scorer, having scored double the number of league goals than the two players joint-second, who have netted six. Even versus Fulham though, Hazard provided two assists for Schurrle and is clearly the most important member of Chelsea's attack.

He is their primary goal threat with 12 league goals but also their foremost creative player having created 77 chances for his teammates this season, including seven chances created against Fulham at the weekend.

If Spurs can shackle him then, they can nullify Chelsea's attacking approach, which is largely focused on setting off Hazard.

The problem for Spurs is that Hazard's ability to drift off the left flank makes him incredibly difficult to man-mark. As we can see from his action-areas graphic versus Fulham:

Hazard was peeling off the left flank to come inside behind the striker and even become the furthest forward player at times. Spurs will have to have to make sure their right-back Kyle Naughton is closely marking him, but will also have to be wary when he comes inside off the flank.

If he comes inside, Moussa Dembele will have to pick him up or risk Hazard finding space. If Hazard is allowed to find space he will be able to thread an intricate ball into a dangerous area or go for goal. But, if Spurs can find a way to nullify him through their right back and central midfield, they will go a long way towards nullifying Chelsea.


Conclusion

Much of the emphasis on this tie will be about where the goals will come from.

Chelsea are quite reliant on Hazard whilst Spurs have general problems in front of goal and have scored just 37 times in the league as a result. Chelsea will relish the chance to go seven points clear of their rivals and as such we can expect Jose Mourinho to set his side up to kill this game off.

Tim Sherwood will also be keen to get a big result, particularly as there is still a lot of doubt about his long term future in North London, but his side might just be powerless to provide one.


Chelsea are 1.55 to beat Tottenham on Saturday - Bet now!