Spawny old Chelsea come to White Hart Lane on Saturday in a game with more than your average number of sub-plots. For starters there’s AVB facing his old employers, us facing the side that nicked our Champions League place, Eden Hazard making a visit to the ground he probably would be calling home if the god of penalty taking hadn’t been looking the other way in Barcelona and Munich, Terry may be starting his four match ban and it’s also the first time we’ve met since Martin Atkinson’s match-turning goal at Wembley.
Easily the most likely to get the press excited will be the first of these, Andre Villas-Boas is in charge for the first time against Abramovich’s play thing since the Russian lost faith in his own project last March. The hounds at AVB’s pre-match press conference will undoubtedly be at their goading best with a myriad of questions themed along the lines of ‘have you got something to prove?’ and ‘do you feel you shouldn’t have been sacked?’ all questions answered already in detail but that won’t matter. Our manager is a man who cannot restrain himself from using 20 words where 5 will do however and it’s unlikely that the tabloids won’t find something they feel they can get their teeth into. Given the performance that followed the Sun’s ‘Spurs In Turmoil’ headline of a few weeks ago then maybe it’ll be no bad thing.
Chelsea’s start to the season has been impressive with the 2-1 win in Woolwich being the stand out result. Doubts have been raised about the efficacy of the defence but in fact they’ve conceded only 4 goals in seven so it can’t be that bad. Marin apart the players bought in the summer in an attempt to shrug off the style that brought them the big cup in May all seem to have integrated well. Moses, Hazard and Oscar join Mata to provide flair that arguably no other side in England at least can match, on paper anyway. Juan Mata in particular seems to be enjoying himself this season. With Luiz, Cahill and Ivanovic available, the loss of Terry is no big deal.
Villas-Boas will presumably send out a team whose shape matches that which took the field for the fine wins over Man Utd and Villa, there are some decisions to be made over which players fill some of the key positions though. Lloris or Friedel? Sigurdsson or Dempsey? Adebayor or Defoe? Assou-Ekotto or Vertonghen or Naughton? Caulker or Vertonghen? My guess would be that Adebayor for Defoe will be the only change, I’ve been very wrong before though.
The game is an intriguing and exciting one in prospect. Our recent home record against Chelsea is good but we’ll need to be at our best for it to continue I suspect, we’ll certainly have to improve the slickness of our passing, a big failing against Villa I thought. Our lack of craft in the centre of midfield means getting the ball wide frequently and quickly is key. Provided Bale, Lennon, Walker and Vertonghen can get some space we should create chances. AVB will probably be happy to concede some possession if it means we can try and hit them on the break, a tactic that may well be our best chance of getting a positive result.
Mike Dean is the man with the whistle. COYS.
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