After the devastation of Monday night, there is no time to dwell on the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ of the action that took place at Stamford Bridge. Let’s just leave it at the fact that it was Chelsea’s 11 playing against United’s 18. Yes, 18. All four match officials and the three clowns down at Stockley Park.
Anyway, we face another enormous test on Saturday lunchtime, in our bid to maintain a Champions League spot against chasers, and fiercest of rivals, Spurs. They too have been hit hard with an abundance of major first-team injuries, including Son Heung Min and Harry Kane; both of whom have been collectively involved in 50% of Spurs 66 goals this campaign. With this in mind, I thought I’d pick out three players who we may need to be wary of come Saturday afternoon.
Lucas Moura – Having been linked with him ourselves back in his Sao Paulo days, Lucas is a player I have followed closely throughout his career. Touted back then as the ‘next big thing’, he has never really hit the heights of his speculated potential, with a move to PSG and then Spurs seemingly sideways, having not achieved an awful lot at either club (although what does a player expect when moving to North London). Despite this, he still possesses the qualities to harm any team when he is on his game. Blistering pace, quick feet and an eye for goal – Lucas is not a player to be slept on, especially as it is likely he will be deployed through the middle on Saturday, ahead of Spurs’ attacking three (as he was against RB Leipzig on Wednesday). With only four goals in his 16 Premier League appearances this campaign, Lucas will surely be looking to improve his output for the backend of this season. And what better time to start in his eyes, than in a massive London derby.
Steven Bergwijn – New January addition Steven Bergwijn hit the ground running with an electric debut in a 2-0 home win over Manchester City. The 22 year old scored the stunning opener, a volley from just outside the box which cannoned past Ederson, sending the home fans into a state of euphoria. With five goals and 10 assists in 16 Eredivise games prior to his winter move, it is clear to see why Spurs fans are getting excited over their new acquisition. Cutting in from the left, he too possesses pace and flair and will provide Reece with an extremely difficult test in what could be an eye-catching battle.
Giovani Lo Celso – After watching Spurs’ poor performance at home to RB Leipzig on Wednesday evening, Giovani Lo Celso was the only white shirt on the pitch that looked like they could produce any real attacking quality. From what I’ve seen from him since the turn of the new year, he seems to be coming into his own after a difficult start to life in North London, with injuries and lack of opportunities blocking his first team emergence. Now, after permanently securing a move from Real Betis for around £27 million, he seems to be filling the creative void left by Christian Eriksen, and looks to be the vocal point of most of Spurs attacking moves. Similarly to our soon to be summer signing Hakim Ziyech, he is a highly skilled and technical player, operating from central or right-sided positions, whilst also having a wand of a left foot. Managing 16 goals and six assists in the 18/19 campaign for Betis, it seems only a matter of time before he cements his place as a real threat in the Spurs’ side.
Now, what can we do about the threats that Jose’s team pose? We know more than most how he likes to set-up in big away games; and just how good he is at getting results from them. Deep defensive line, low block, and emphasis on counter attacking quality – the game is likely to swing in the direction of the team who produces that moment of brilliance when they need it the most. The story of our season has been our ability (or lack of) in front of goal. If Tammy isn’t fit, which looks to be the case, I see it imperative that Olivier Giroud starts up front. He showed glimpses of what he can still do against United on Monday, and the idea of him on the end of Reece James’ crosses seems unquestionably effective.
Defensively speaking, the players touched on above all fit like a glove in the way I expect Mourinho’s Spurs to approach the game. There will undoubtedly be opportunities for them on the counter, and all three possess pace and power to cause us problems at the back. With this in mind I would not be surprised if Frank opts to put Fikayo back into the team. He is our quickest central defender and has already shown his outstanding ability to defend one on one this season, something that I think will be essential in neutralising Spurs’ attacking threat.
In terms of the game itself I am feeling quietly confident. Watching Spurs play on Wednesday, they seemed devoid of any real quality or self belief, clearly aware of the weakened state they are currently in. With a solid defensive performance, and an equally clinical one at the other end of the pitch, I can’t see anything else than a Chelsea win. Let’s hope I’m right.