The Big Match Tactical View: Tottenham v Chelsea
It's a Saturday evening London derby at Wembley, in what should be the pick of this weekend's matches. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action.
"Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli will offer Harry Kane’s main support, and the two attacking midfielders have combined well against Chelsea previously."
Tottenham v Chelsea
Saturday 17:30, BT Sport 1
Match Odds: Tottenham [2.8], Chelsea [2.7], The Draw [3.5]
Mauricio Pochettino's side come into this game still struggling with injuries in defensive positions. Centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez are out, as are full-backs Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier - and the one player you don't want to face with a depleted backline is Chelsea's Eden Hazard.
Chelsea's dangerous left flank
The Belgian has had a slightly disjointed start to the campaign because he was late back to pre-season after the World Cup, and because he's picked up a couple of knocks. But when Hazard has been on the pitch, he's been in absolutely electric form, thriving under Maurizio Sarri's new-look Chelsea, darting inside from the left flank to play through-balls between the lines and break in behind into goalscoring positions. On his day, he's surely the Premier League's best player.
Perhaps Chelsea's second-best attacking performer this season has been the man playing directly behind Hazard - Marcos Alonso. Many expected the Spaniard's attacking instincts to be curbed now Chelsea are playing with a four-man defence rather than a back three, meaning Alonso is now a full-back rather than a wing-back. But Alonso has continued to offer a consistent threat on the overlap, and Chelsea's best two attempts in their goalless draw with Everton last time out came from Alonso breaking into dangerous left-sided positions and shooting well from a difficult angle.
How will Pochettino react?
Spurs' priority must be to stop that combination, Hazard and Alonso, which is easier said than done. Trippier's probable absence might be a blessing in disguise, because while the right-back boasts a tremendous delivery on the overlap, he's also guilty of consistently leaving too much space behind him for opponents to exploit, and he doesn't have the mobility to cope with such speedy opponents.
In his place will presumably be Serge Aurier, a somewhat haphazard performer sometimes guilty of odd decisions, and he'll have a serious tough test against the trickery of Hazard, who is brilliant at winning fouls.
Pochettino must also decide how to play the situation against Alonso. Does he use Lucas Moura there, and rely on the Brazilian to push Alonso back at times, risking that he might switch off defensively? A better option might be using Moussa Sissoko on that flank, which would bring guaranteed energy, albeit inconsistent contributions going forward.
Either way, it's likely that Eric Dier will be deployed the right of the midfield trio, and be charged with stopping Hazard when he cuts inside from the left. A booking for Dier, who has sometimes got a little carried away in this fixture, isn't difficult to envisage.
Kovacic or Barkley?
Elsewhere, it will be the usual 4-3-3 from Chelsea. David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger have both brought the ball forward impressively this season and Cesar Azpilicueta's direct passes into Alvaro Morata still remain dangerous. Jorginho is the man who sets the passing tempo while N'Golo Kante provides the energy. Mateo Kovacic provides passing quality, Ross Barkley more driving forward runs - that's the main selection dilemma for Sarri.
Morata has looked better in recent weeks after a difficult start to the campaign, while Willian has been lively in recent weeks and has seemingly displaced Pedro on the right.
Spurs can play a three-man defence or a back four with similarly impressive organisation, but injury problems dictate it will be the latter here. Harry Winks should start if Sissoko is pushed out to the right flank.
Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli will offer Harry Kane's main support, and those two have combined well against Chelsea previously. Both are adept at making late runs in support of Spurs' main striker, and that might cause problems here.
I think Hazard will shine here, however, against a depleted backline that might struggle to cope with his acceleration. I'll back the Belgian to open the scoring at [6.0].
The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson
The Saturday evening game sees 3rd place Chelsea travel to North London to face 4th place Tottenham at Wembley in what looks the pick of the Premier League fixtures this weekend. The hosts have won three of the last seven league games against their opponents, that’s as many as they had won in the previous 49 top flight meetings.
Despite this recent success, it is Tottenham who are slight outsiders trading around [2.88] to record consecutive victories over their London rivals for the first time since 1987. While Maurizio Sarri is yet to taste defeat as Chelsea manager after 18 fixtures and his side are currently around [2.68].
Goals could be in short supply, Spurs haven’t managed win by more than one goal in their last nine league matches, since beating Huddersfield away at the end of September (2-0) and against a Chelsea side that have conceded just two goals in eight away days this season.
I get the feeling this could be a tense affair at Wembley with both sides looking to keep tabs on the top three, Under 2.5 Goals has landed in five of Spurs last six games as well as two of their last three against today’s opponents. It’s priced at [2.18] and I think that offers a bit of value.
Michael: Back Eden Hazard First Goalscorer @ [6.0]
Alan: Back Under 2.5 Goals @ [2.18]