Chelsea host Tottenham at Stamford Bridge tonight in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final. Tottenham are leading 1-0 from the first leg, in which Harry Kane scored the decisive goal: a penalty that should never have been. VAR will be in place again tonight, so let’s hope they have cameras in line with players and offside positions can be judged if needs be.
Chelsea dominated in the first leg as Tottenham sat on their 1-0 lead. But without a focal point up front, they really struggled, just as they did on Saturday against Arsenal. Of course, Tottenham and Arsenal both defended extremely well in their games against Chelsea, and it can’t be all put down to them not having a striker, but it’s certainly something to do with it.
Eden Hazard playing as a false nine does not work. While he’s an incredible player at times, he’s far more dangerous when starting out on the left. He’s easier to deal with in the middle, where there are more players to pick him up. He finds it difficult to get one-on-one with a defender when playing through the middle. Gonzalo Higuian was signed yesterday, but wasn’t registered in time to play tonight, so that leaves Chelsea with the same squad that played in the previous game.
Hazard should not play through the middle. He needs to play out on the left, where he’s more dangerous, and Olivier Giroud needs to play up front. He offers something different, and can help Hazard as he can play off the Frenchman. Giroud is extremely good with his back to goal, and can hold the ball up and slip Hazard in around the sides, as we’ve seen him do before.
Willian shouldn’t play, as he’s ineffective in almost every game. Pedro could play on the right, but there’s a real argument for playing Callum Hudson-Odoi. If Chelsea want to keep him, he has to play more football. He’d give them something different, too, as he can be unpredictable. A front three of Hazard, Giroud and Hudson-Odoi could be dangerous. Maurizio Sarri, who is starting to get criticised by Chelsea fans, really needs to think about playing those three.
Tottenham’s team almost picks itself, as they’re so short in terms of numbers and don’t have many players who can come in. There may be one or two changes, but nothing drastic. They’re without Harry Kane and Dele Alli, who won’t return to training until the start of March, and that’s not to mention Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko, who are also out. Son Heung-min is also unavailable, as he’s off at the Asian Cup.
It means Tottenham are quite light in terms of numbers, but they do still have plenty of quality in their squad. Christian Eriksen will likely drop back into central midfield with Harry Winks, while there’ll be a back five behind them. Expect it to be Trippier/Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Rose/Davies. Then the three up front could be Lucas Moura, who’s back from injury, Fernando Llorente and Erik Lamela. Or Mauricio Pochettino may go for something entirely different, like playing Eric Dier in central midfield so he can have Eriksen further up the pitch, where he’s more dangerous. It remains to be seen.
In terms of how they’ll set up, Chelsea will surely take control of the game early on. Tottenham will likely be happy to sit back and attack on the break. There’s no away goals rule in place, so Chelsea don’t have to be absolutely terrified of conceding, although it wouldn’t be ideal for them if Tottenham scored first. Scoring two may be difficult. There’s no extra-time tonight either, and it would go straight to penalties if the aggregate score is level after 90 minutes. That’s certainly a good thing.
This one is set to be a good game. It’ll be interesting to see how they both go about their business. It would be surprising if Tottenham really sit back and defend with everything they have, but they may be a bit more cautious than usual. They defend well when they need to, and Chelsea may find it hard to break them down. Chelsea really need to up their game too, because they’ve been very poor recently. They need to get back to the kind of football they were playing earlier in the season.
This is a game that could go either way. It should be a good one.
That’s that from me for today. For some extra reading ahead of the game, check out our article on the history of the Chelsea/Tottenham rivalry. I’ll be back with more tomorrow, including an in-depth article. This week’s is on the Crystal Palace/Brighton rivalry. It’s interesting stuff, as they’re not local rivals, like most rivalries are. But there are plenty of reasons for the hate they share, which I’ll go through here tomorrow.
Anyway, have a good Thursday!