Match Preview: Spurs Vs Chelsea

For all the legitimate concerns followers of Tottenham may have about spending a season squatting at Wembley Stadium, at least the doors will be open to more people and yet, when they play their first ‘home’ game of the season at the national stadium, it is those missing, rather than those in attendance, who will command most attention. And not just because, on police instruction, 20,000 or so seats will go unfilled on Sunday.

Champions Chelsea will arrive in North London a team diminished in the short time since they lifted the Premier League trophy back in May. In part because of an abject, calamitous opening day defeat to Burnley. But more significantly in basic terms of personnel.

Cahill Red Card

Through a combination of injury, suspensions, the mismanaging of star players and a transfer policy that has seen nearly two teams worth of players leave — either permanently or on loan — with only a small handful of incomings, Antonio Conte will be scratching around to put a reliable team out this weekend for what is already shaping up as a defining fixture in the nascent season.

Chelsea’s bench against Burnley was populated by kids and unknowns. The squad is skinny from front to back.  In defence alone, this window the club have seen John Terry, Kurt Zouma and Nathan Ake leave with only Antonio Rudiger so far drafted to compensate.  Gary Cahill’s suspension after his red card in the opening 15 minutes of the season has exposed that weakness further. Harry Kane must be licking his lips.

It’s even worse in central midfield. With big money signing Tiemoue Bakayoko and occasional player of the year Eden Hazard both injured until next month, the sense in allowing Nemanja Matic to leave — and to a direct rival at that — Nathaniel Chalobah to move to Watford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek out on loan to Crystal Palace appears cavalier to the point of negligent.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea reacts to being sent off during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge on August 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

None were clearly first picks for Conte, but as understudies they had a value that has been squandered.  Cesc Fabregas’ unforgivable, juvenile act of petulance has robbed the Italian manager of another option in a department so depleted that against Burnley he even started with the promising but entirely unproven Jeremie Boga there.

Tottenham, at the time of writing, have yet to complete a deal to sign anyone this window, a concern for those who fear standing still will see the club, so impressive in the last two seasons, actually go backwards. Though it may not be quiet the surrender some are painting it as.

Having lost Kyle Walker to Manchester City, the club are actively pursuing reinforcements at full back, and are close to brining highly rated centre-back Davinson Sanchez from Ajax for a club record £40m.  Spurs chairman Daniel Levy always does his business late, so expect further movement in the market.

Regardless, where Chelsea are wont to stockpile young talent only to loan it out en masse, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino is as advocate of bringing players through and giving them their chance.  There is something to be said for a team spirit forged of sound and meticulous coaching and a process of blooding players already steeped in the club’s philosophy.

Tottenham certainly don’t have any concerns in gelling players or uncertainty over foreign imports needing time to adapt to a new league. If that gives them the platform for a strong opening to the season, it may go some distance to mitigating a lack of big name signings.


In common with Chelsea, however, if through a different set of circumstances, Tottenham do carry still in to this season concerns over depth, the second string a distance from the quality of the first picks. Should Harry Kane or, worse, Dele Alli get injured their inability or unwillingness to compete in the high stakes transfer gambling to simply bolster their squad options may yet be problematic down the track.

Not, you imagine, this weekend, though. Wembley has been unkind to Tottenham recently. And their most recent defeat there came against Chelsea who started their FA Cup semi-final with Costa and Hazard on the bench and still won 4-2.

And yet the mood in the Chelsea camp between then and now is night and day. They are there for the taking. Pochettino has a golden opportunity to heap even more pressure on his opposite number in the Chelsea dugout.

Should Spurs seize the opportunity the Spurs fans may start learning to love their home away from home.

(The Telegraph)

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