The Big Match Tactical View: Chelsea v Tottenham

Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama will be tasked with controlling the midfield
Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama will be tasked with controlling the midfield
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It's a London derby FA Cup semi-final between the Premier League's top two. Michael Cox looks at the tactics and Alan Thompson assesses the betting, with the game is available on Betfair Live Video...

"Ultimately, this game might be about how often the two sides can feed the ball into their creative players between the lines."

Chelsea v Tottenham
Saturday, 17:15
Live on BBC One

Match Odds: Chelsea [2.76], Tottenham [2.9], The Draw [3.4].

Chelsea might be four points ahead of Tottenham in the Premier League table, but there's barely anything between these two sides in the betting for this FA Cup semi-final. Tottenham are in better form, have fewer injury worries, and comprehensively outplayed Chelsea in a 2-0 victory at White Hart Lane back in January.

That victory came when Mauricio Pochettino switched to a 3-4-2-1 to replicate Chelsea's shape, and it feels like he could do something similar here, despite playing a back four in the past couple of weeks. This back three would feature Eric Dier playing at the back alongside Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, with Ben Davies and Kyle Walker pushing forward to become wing-backs.

Those two players might prove crucial, because Chelsea's wing-back combination remains to be seen. Marcos Alonso missed last weekend's defeat at Old Trafford through illness, and while he should be fit to start here, he might not be 100% fit. Victor Moses, on the other flank, is also doubtful through injury.

Combined with the potential absence of Gary Cahill, this potentially causes Antonio Conte a major problem. Can he push Cesar Azpilicueta forward to wing-back, or is he required in defence? If so, he might have to play Pedro Rodriguez at wing-back, a position he's played relatively regularly in recent weeks, but isn't entirely comfortable in. Ben Davies may push him back into comfortable positions.

Spurs' main dilemma, though, is about how to cope with Eden Hazard. Pochettino will have witnessed how effectively Jose Mourinho nullified him with man-marking last weekend, and may consider replicating that tactic here. However, it's more likely Spurs will continue with their zonal system, with Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama having most responsibility for shutting him down.

Wanyama will more concerned with the midfield scrap, however. The battle between he and Mousa Dembele against N'Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic will be fast-paced and physical, although it's unlikely either side will boast much creativity from this zone. Dembele could be crucial here, and his ability to slalom away from opposition challenges could prove invaluable.

Ultimately, this game might be about how often the two sides can feed the ball into their creative players between the lines. In the 2-0 win at White Hart Lane, both Spurs goals came when Christian Eriksen floated into a pocket of space between the lines, then drifted the ball over the defence for Dele Alli to head home. Those two players will be crucial.

Conte will guard against this type of concession again, of course, and this might encourage him to use Kurt Zouma in the centre of defence, pushing Azpilicueta forward to right-wing-back - if Cahill is fit to start in defence, of course.

Harry Kane has a good record against Chelsea and will lead the line for Spurs, although against three centre-backs he might find himself making clever decoy runs to create space for Alli, as much as being the target man. That said, Kane has an exceptional ability to get himself opportunities out of nothing, and he could outwit David Luiz.

At the other end, Diego Costa looks badly out-of-sorts and will be pushed away from goal by Spurs' centre-backs. He needs to concentrate on running the channels, rather than winding up opponents.

In all, Spurs look in excellent shape here. Chelsea are narrow favourites, but I'll be taking Spurs at [2.9].

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

The top two in the Premier League meet in the first of what should be two cracking FA Cup semi finals at Wembley this weekend. The market is struggling to split them and for good reason, Chelsea are just edging favouritism at [2.76] and probably rightly so, sitting top of the league and they have an exceptional record against today’s opponents, Spurs have won just two of their last 14 meetings, both wins at White Hart Lane.

However, Chelsea have started to wobble a bit recently, suffering a home defeat against Crystal Palace (2-1) and then losing last week at Old Trafford (2-0), while I still think they will win the league, second place Tottenham are most definitely the form side at the minute. Spurs have won eight of their last nine starts, their only defeat coming at Anfield and they have scored at least twice in their last seven, most of which has been done without their talisman striker Harry Kane.

My concerns about backing Tottenham in the Match Odds market is that they seem to struggle against the elite teams especially away from White Hart Lane, despite having another superb season they are still to win away against a side currently in the top eight, their win at the Etihad (2-1) last season was their first away win against a top six finishing side since 2013. Also, their form at Wembley Stadium in Europe also doesn’t fill me with much confidence.

Whatever way you go in this I would advise having the draw onside and for that reason I will side with the inform Tottenham in the Draw No Bet market at [2.04].

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