23 years ago a typical Gary Lineker goal from a Nayim cross ensured Spurs’ last victory at Stamford Bridge in a game that is probably better remembered for Gazza’s petulant right hook to his marker John Bumstead. In 1990 Man United were still chasing their 1st league title under Alex Ferguson, Liverpool were kingpins of English football and Gareth Bale was still learning to walk, yes my friends the world was a very different place!
Tonight is possibly Tottenham’s most important visit to what has been a particularly unhappy hunting ground in the intervening years. True, there have been occasions when it looked like the curse might be laid to rest, in 1994 Spurs led 2-0 before imploding and conceding a Mark Stein penalty in the dying minutes to lose 3-2 and the F.A. cup tie in 2007 where we led 2-0 and then 3-1 before drawing and then losing the subsequent replay at the Lane are two particular unhappy memories that come to mind.
This evening’s game is all the more intriguing given the Champions league implications not to mention the return of AVB to the club where he was victim of dressing room politics and unfair expectations that eventually led to his dismissal. Chelsea come into the game after being gifted three points at Old Trafford on Sunday thanks to an understrength United team and a controversial refereeing decision that led to the winner. On the other side of the coin there’s no getting away from the fact that Spurs form of late has been far from sparkling, the impressive second half performance against City was followed up by abject showings against Wigan and Southampton. The only good thing coming out of those games was that defeats were avoided and Champions League qualification is still in our own hands.
Added to that is the fact that it looks like Moussa Dembele missing for Spurs, the Belgian has struggled through the past couple of matches and after his limping off on Saturday the writing was on the wall for him starting tonight’s fixture. It does however give Tom Huddlestone another chance to show his unquestionable technical ability with AVB’s biggest decision being whether to put Parker back in the team or give Lewis Holtby a starting place after he came on for Dembele on Saturday. It should also be noted that Chelsea’s mounting fixture list along with the fact that they have played a game extra within the last seven days means that they are not as fresh as they would like to be meaning tonight really is a case of survival of the fittest.
Look, as Spurs fans we know we never go about things the easy way and this year’s Champions League qualification will be no different. Hopefully when the smoke clears tonight at the Bridge, our dreams of Europe are still intact and that hoodoo which has been hanging around our necks like a millstone for 23 long years is finally put to rest.
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