Chelsea vs Tottenham predictions: Tense tussle expected at the Bridge
Chelsea versus Tottenham is a match never short of intrigue but Sunday’s meeting of these fierce rivals should also provide a test of the narratives building around the clubs.
Much has changed for both over the past 12 months, with Chelsea going from top four certainties to an unknown quantity, while Tottenham rose from a shambolic state to be lauded as Premier League dark horses.
For Spurs, the turnaround since Fabio Paratici became director of football and Antonio Conte entered the dugout has been miraculous.
An aimless club has found direction, the squad is reinvigorated and ambitions emboldened.
At Chelsea, Roman Abramovich’s exit has led to uncertainty and self-reflection.
New owner Todd Boehly has backed up his bold claims with big spending but key players have departed and rivals are sensing a hint of vulnerability now that Roman’s roubles will no longer bankroll the west London outfit.
Only time will tell whether Chelsea have merely been buffeted by a bump in the road or if an era has ended but this weekend’s clash should offer some interesting clues.
A convincing Blues performance and a sixth successive victory over their London rivals will suggest it is a case of ‘new owner, same old Chelsea’.
However, if Tottenham rock up and record only their second victory in 38 visits to Stamford Bridge then perhaps talk of a shift in the balance of power will start to sound more convincing.
Mateo Kovacic is out with a knee problem but the Croatian midfielder is the only Chelsea player unavailable through injury.
Blues manager Thomas Tuchel has also again ruled out Marcos Alonso, however, as the wing-back is on the verge of a move to Barcelona.
Tottenham’s Oliver Skipp suffered a hairline fracture to his heel during pre-season and is a few weeks from fitness, while Clement Lenglet drops out of the squad due to a minor adductor issue.
But Conte’s squad will be boosted by the availability of £50m summer signing Richarlison, who missed out against Southampton as he completed a one-match suspension carried over from last season.
Tottenham lost all four meetings with Chelsea last term by an aggregate score of 8-0, making it nine defeats and three draws since they last beat the Blues.
Spurs have failed to score in the last six meetings and have not netted more than a single goal in a game during that 12-match sequence.
However, Tottenham have undergone a change in mindset under Conte, scoring 51 Premier League goals in 2022 – more than any other top-flight rival.
Indeed, their 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in January was one of only two league matches against top-six rivals that returned fewer than three goals, with the other being a 1-1 draw at Anfield.
Conte’s men won 3-2 at Manchester City, beat Arsenal 3-0, drew 2-2 hosting Liverpool and lost 3-2 at Manchester United.
Chelsea’s record against teams finishing in the top half of the Premier League last season was surprisingly modest, with the victory over Tottenham one of only two home wins.
Overall, they had a record of five wins, nine draws and four defeats against other top-half teams.
Despite finishing below them, Tottenham claimed more points against top-half rivals than the Blues, compiling a W8 D2 L8 record in such matches — and four of those eight losses came before Conte took charge.
This eagerly anticipated London derby should provide an interesting clash of approaches.
Tuchel demands control and, last season, only against elite possession-based rivals Manchester City and Liverpool did he accept his side would see less of the ball and instruct his side to drop deep to condense space to stifle those opponents.
Chelsea were able to do so to some extent and drew all four matches against Liverpool — albeit two of them ending in cup final penalty shootout defeats.
But a lack of a clinical finisher on the counter-attack meant both meetings with Manchester City ended in 1-0 defeats.
The German could attempt to do something similar against Tottenham even though Conte is less demanding of possession and more interested in creating quick transitions that catch opponents on the hop.
The weakness of Conte’s team last season was in breaking down condensed opponents — a trait that was still in evidence in pre-season when Jose Mourinho’s low block thwarted Tottenham in a 1-0 defeat to Roma.
That could result in a strange encounter in which both teams encourage the other side onto them and neither particularly commit to attack, with a set-piece or error more likely to provide the opening goal than a well-crafted attack.
Expect a tense, tactical battle in which a low-scoring draw looks the likeliest outcome.