There's a mouth-watering clash in store between title contenders Chelsea and Tottenham on Sunday, but Kevin Hatchard thinks improved defences could dominate...
"Chelsea have kept clean sheets in seven of their last ten matches, while Jose Mourinho tends to put the brakes on in games of this magnitude."
Chelsea v Tottenham
Sunday 29 November, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Mendy signing could prove to be Chelsea's smartest
For all the analysis tools and reams of technical data at our fingertips, there are still some fundamental truths in football. If you have a great goalkeeper, you can win trophies. If you don't, you can't. The last two winners of the Champions League have some of the best custodians in the world in Manuel Neuer and Alisson, and Manchester City's Premier League success was partially down to the excellence of Ederson. The current league leaders in Germany, England (Hugo Lloris), France (Keylor Navas) and Italy (Gigio Donnarumma) all have outstanding goalkeepers.
Step forward, Edouard Mendy. Since signing from Rennes, the Senegalese keeper has transformed Chelsea's fortunes with his giant frame and quiet authority. From looking fragile and uncertain in defence with the hapless Kepa between the posts, Chelsea have suddenly produced a sequence of seven clean sheets in ten matches. They have gone ten games unbeaten, and Tuesday's dramatic 2-1 victory at Rennes (Olivier Giroud got the winner after the French side had netted a late equaliser) has put the Blues through to the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare.
Boss Frank Lampard is trying to stay grounded, but he must be excited by the progress his super-talented side is making. Ben Chilwell has settled quickly at left-back, Thiago Silva is showing glimpses of his quality at the heart of defence, Hakim Ziyech is lavishly gifted, and although Timo Werner has always been the kind of player that misses sitters now and again, he's still racked up eight goals and three assists in 14 competitive appearances.
Dynamic American Christian Pulisic could return after a hamstring problem, and Kai Havertz is an option after his return from COVID-19. Silva could get the nod ahead of Antonio Rudiger at centre-back.
Confident Spurs are building momentum
There have been enough near-misses in recent years for Tottenham fans to be wary of the team's latest run of positive results, not to mention the fear of "Spursy-ness" that infuses the club. A title challenge fell apart in 2016, culminating in the costly "Battle of the Bridge" against Chelsea, and of course there was the crippling disappointment of the Champions League final defeat to Liverpool in Madrid.
The true test of Spurs' improvement under Jose Mourinho is coming up. After this London derby against their old foes Chelsea, the Lilywhites face another capital showdown at home to Arsenal, with clashes against Liverpool and Leicester City on the slate before Christmas. Mourinho's men are currently 7.613/2 in the PL Winner market (Chelsea are 7.4), but if they come through that set of games unscathed, that price may shorten.
Early in his reign, Mourinho was at pains to stress that Harry Kane could blossom under his watchful gaze, and that has proven to be the case. The England captain has scored seven Premier League goals and made nine more, and he continues to combine beautifully with the effervescent Heung-Min Son.
Spurs are defending well too, having kept clean sheets in three of their last four matches, including a shut-out in the recent 2-0 win over Manchester City. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, derided by some in the past (including me) as a water-carrier, has proven to be a key cog in the Tottenham machine.
Spurs have been dealt a blow with news that defender Toby Aldeweireld will miss this London derby with injury, but Hugo Lloris, Giovani Lo Celso and Steven Bergwijn are expected to recover from minor knocks.
Don't expect old friends to fight fire with fire
There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Mourinho usually approaches this kind of game with caution, and against Manchester City, Spurs scored with their only two shots on target and had an Expected Goals figure of just 0.68.
When these teams met in the Carabao Cup earlier this season, they played out a 1-1 draw before Spurs triumphed on penalties. Indeed, since the start of 2019, just four of the clubs' six meetings have featured three goals or more. Mourinho will be keen not to lose his first three PL clashes with his old protege Lampard, something he's never done against any other coach.
With all of the attacking talent on show, it would be reasonable to suggest that there'll be plenty of goals here, but I'm not so sure. Chelsea are far more solid with Mendy in goal these days, and Tottenham under Mourinho in big games rarely let loose.
I think Under 2.5 Goals is an attractive price here at 2.245/4.
Tottenham too big to get a result?
Chelsea have won four of their last five meetings with Tottenham, including the last three Premier League clashes, and I suspect that is influencing Chelsea's price of 2.1411/10 in the Match Odds market. Tottenham haven't lost in the league since the opening weekend debacle against Everton, and on the road they have won all four of their top-flight games, including a 5-2 win at Southampton and a 6-1 victory at Old Trafford. They are looking to win their first five top-flight away matches for the first time since they won the title in 1961. The loss of Aldeweireld is a blow, but apart from the Belgian there are no key performers missing.
You can back Draw/Spurs on the Double Chance market at 1.855/6, but if you want a bigger price, you could double that up with an Under 3.5 Goals bet at 2.39, perhaps using our Same Game Multi offer (details below).
Son set to shine?
Heung-Min Son scored against Manchester City, his first goal in nearly a month. He has 11 goals in all competitions, and is a rather hefty 3.02/1 to score here, while Harry Kane is 2.68/5.
For Chelsea, the fleet-footed Werner is 2.47/5, with Tammy Abraham 2.6813/8 - Abraham has found the net in three of his last six appearances.
Bet £10 and Get £10 - Same Game Multi Offer
Bet £10 on a Premier League Same Game Multi for games on Saturday and Sunday and get a free £10 Sportsbook bet to use on any market, once settled, T&Cs apply.