Carabao Cup, semi-final, first leg
Tottenham have won 14 of their last 17 matches in all competitions. Their two blips – exceptions rather than rules – being pretty hefty ones: 4-2 at Arsenal and 3-1 at home to Wolves.
Overall, though, they have looked very strong and are looking more and more the finished article as time goes on. Talk of the possible departure of manager Mauricio Pochettino and, for that matter, key players Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, hasn’t broken their stride.
Star striker Harry Kane keeps on scoring, too, with 12 in his last 15 matches. In fairness, Tottenham have any number of players capable of popping up with a goal. They have scored 22 goals in their last five matches, a run that includes a 6-2 win at Everton and a 7-0 FA Cup win at Tranmere.
On the face of things, Chelsea’s form isn’t too bad but, with the imminent departure of Cesc Fabregas, the unsettled talented teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi, the protracted scramble to sign a centre-forward, a current number nine who struggles to muster a smile even when he scores and the seemingly-guaranteed departure at the end of the season of their star player Eden Hazard, well, the waters are not particularly calm at Stamford Bridge.
In terms of numbers, they have won eight and drawn two of their last 12 matches, keeping six clean sheets along the way.
However, they have failed to score in each of their last two home league matches, have received criticism over their ponderous build-up play and, also, the fact that Kante is being played out of position. They remain Maurizio Sarri’s work-in-progress.
Also, their most-emphatic defeat this season came at the hands of Tuesday’s opponents (3-1 at Wembley on November 24th), where Chelsea’s lack of imagination once their playmaker Jorginho was crowded out of the game and the occasional defensive frailties of David Luiz were starkly on show.
Will Tottenham have things so easy again?
Tottenham are, quite rightly, favourites to win. As mentioned, they are scoring goals for fun and, furthermore, have kept eight clean sheets in their last 14 matches, winning eleven of them.
Chelsea have kept clean sheets in four of their last eight matches but three defeats in their last 13 matches show that the odd stumble is also possible. Put against this is the fact that they have a very talented collection of players and have registered wins at Liverpool (in this competition) and Manchester City (2-0 at home in the league) this campaign so, by contrast, remain capable of beating just about anyone on their day.
Tottenham – Lucas Moura picked up a knee injury against Tranmere on Friday and will miss out. Eric Dier (recovering from appendicitis) and Victor Wanyama (knee) are still out but Erik Lamela is now back in full training.
Chelsea – Ruben Loftus-Cheek will miss the match owing to a recurrence of a back injury. Cesc Fabregas’s reported departure to Monaco is expected to rule him out of the game. Gary Cahill is still unavailable, while Pedro (hamstring) and Giroud (ankle) are also expected to miss out. Some publications have ruled Willian out of the match Maurizio Sarri has been quoted as saying, ”I don’t think Willian’s injury is very serious”.
As a semi-final first leg, there’s a temptation to say that this will be a cagey affair. It may start out that way but this fixture generally produces goals and, after all, we are talking about a fierce rivalry so, not least for the fans, a win has even greater appeal than usual.
Following their resounding victory over Chelsea when the teams last met, Tottenham will feel confident going into the match. I favour them to win. Scores of 2-0, 2-1 or 3-1 all look reasonable enough options.
Dele Alli seems to love playing against Chelsea, having scored six goals in the last five meetings between the teams (and he has failed to score in only one of those games)
Twelve of the last 16 meetings between these sides have produced more than 2.5 goals. Nine of them have produced more than 3.5 goals. In only one of the last seven meetings between the teams has one of them failed to score. There has been only one 0-0 draw in their last 16 meetings.
Recommendations (prices correct at the time of publication):
Ed: Will has been successful with eight of his last nine football bet recommendations
Both teams to score, 13/20
Tottenham to win, 6/5
Tottenham to win and over 2.5 goals in match, 85/40
Dele Alli to score first, 17/2 (he has scored first in two of the last five meetings between the sides)
Dele Alli, anytime scorer, 13/5
Eden Hazard, anytime scorer, 9/5
Name the finalists: Tottenham and Man City, Evens