Chelsea host Tottenham at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon for the 173rd instalment of a London derby that has been ferociously contested ever since a 2-1 home win on the Fulham Road amid ‘cup-tie fervour’ and ‘partisan shouting between the rival factions’ – 112 years ago. Spurs have won only once in their past 31 league trips to the Bridge, and have also lost nine of their past 13 matches against a top-four side such as the third-placed Blues (they drew the other four).
However, Antonio Conte’s team earned a dramatic late win at Leicester on Wednesday and are now eight points behind the third-placed Blues with four games in hand. There is nothing quite like a few days’ rest and the prospect of a hot derby on a cold day to restore tired bodies and minds. Especially as the Blues are unbeaten in 20 previous matches against seven former coaches in the Premier League era.
Chelsea have not recorded a clean sheet for six league games and stopped creating the variety of good goalscoring opportunities they were. Few matches have the catalysing effect of this high-octane derby, though, and Chelsea have already beaten the visitors 3-0 on aggregate in the Carabao Cup this month. Tuchel will be pleased his squad options are increasing, with centre-back Trevoh Chalobah back in training and wing-back Kenedy acclimatising after his return from loan.
Chelsea are Tottenham’s second toughest Premier League opponents, having beaten the Lilywhites 32 times. Despite Antonio Conte changing tactical approach against his former club between the two legs of the Carabao Cup semi-finals, Spurs have not found the net against Chelsea for 457 minutes in all competitions. His familiar 3-4-3 system was easily beaten 2-0 in the opener at the Bridge, so he opted for three central midfielders in a 3-5-2 for the second leg. His team registered two shots on target in the first game and three in the second.
All the same, the best Spurs players over the tie were strike partners Lucas Moura and Harry Kane, who also formed the attacking duo at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday. Yet it was the unheralded substitute Steven Bergwijn who stole the points with a late brace of smart finishes within 80 seconds of each other.
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