Joleon Lescott column: Blues can bring Spurs back down to earth again

Joleon Lescott
LiveScore
21/01/202208:00
Joleon Lescott believes Chelsea's third meeting of the month with Tottenham will end in a familiar fashion
Joleon Lescott believes Chelsea's third meeting of the month with Tottenham will end in a familiar fashion

Despite Tottenham’s dramatic win in midweek against Leicester, I’m still expecting Chelsea to have too much for them this weekend.

Losing at Manchester City last Saturday may have killed any fading title chances but I’m not anticipating a big drop-off from the Blues in the coming months. 

Sure, results and performances haven’t been as good as we expect recently but plenty of top sides go through a sticky patch — plus there’s still too much to play for. 

When you’re in a dressing room like that, with such high professionalism and drive, every game matters and any downing of tools simply won’t be tolerated by the senior pros and staff.

In the same respect, I don’t expect Thomas Tuchel to experiment much with new formations or tactics — although I do think we could see more rotation. 

Sometimes it’s a case of being prepared for a situation before it arises. 

For example, when Chelsea first had to play without Romelu Lukaku, some players looked unsure what to do. 

To prepare for that, it may be a case of not always starting with Lukaku even when he is fit so that his team-mates can adapt and get used to a different way of playing.

I also expect we’ll see plenty of Malang Sarr and Trevoh Chalobah as Tuchel tries to work out his defensive plans for next season.

He’s clearly a fan of Chalobah — as he should be — and I thought Sarr looked very comfortable in the game against City, which was encouraging.

Those are the games you’re preparing these players for. At a club like Chelsea, you’ve got to be capable not just of playing in the Premier League but being at your best in the games that matter.

Spurs must strengthen

Joleon Lescott claims Antonio Conte will still be confident of bringing in fresh faces this month
Joleon Lescott claims Antonio Conte will still be confident of bringing in fresh faces this month

These two London rivals recently collided over two legs in the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

And even though Spurs improved in the second clash, there’s a quality gap between them.

That dramatic win at Leicester is sure to send them to Stamford Bridge in high spirits but Antonio Conte will be under no illusions about the journey ahead for his side — he admitted as much after the first leg of the semi.

And although he’ll have a clearer idea of how to set up for this clash, there’s only so much he can do from the touchline.

Conte will want new faces in before the month is out and I can understand why some Spurs fans are getting uncomfortable with the lack of incomings. 

But I don’t think it’s anything to worry about just yet.

When we look at the top clubs in England — the likes of Liverpool and City — there’s very little bluster before they complete a deal.

They act quickly and cleanly, without any messing around. If that’s where Spurs want to get to under Conte, perhaps there has been a change in their recruitment approach. 

Only those inside the club really know how close they are to bringing in new faces and I think closing out a couple of signings with a minimum of fuss would do the world of good. 

A move for Adama Traore could well happen but I don’t think that will be the only deal we see before the end of the month.

United host Hammers

Jadon Sancho will be desperate to get return to the Manchester United fold against West Ham
Jadon Sancho will be desperate to get return to the Manchester United fold against West Ham

Manchester United host West Ham on Saturday and it will be interesting to see if Ralf Rangnick gives Jadon Sancho a chance — providing he’s available.

Anthony Elanga has impressed in the last two games and I love seeing youngsters take their opportunity. He’s making himself hard to drop.

But it’s difficult for Sancho. These last few months are probably the first time he’s faced such scrutiny in his career and the first time he’s suffered such a dip in form.

It’s very easy to forget he’s only 21 — just two years older than Elanga — but there’s so much more expectation on his shoulders.

Making the adjustment from the Bundesliga was always going to take some time. And from an England perspective, I really hope he can rediscover the confidence that is so key to his style of play.

A win for West Ham would be a huge boost to their top-four push and they’ve shown themselves as very capable of bouncing back after a bad result.

Even though David Moyes likes to operate with a small squad, I would be surprised if the Hammers don’t bring in a couple of extra bodies before the month is out.

Moyesy isn’t a particularly scenario-focused manager, so he’ll be going back to basics at Old Trafford and trying to make his side hard to beat.

As we saw when Wolves won there earlier this month, keeping things tight can get the crowd very frustrated and that could play into the visitors’ hands.

I’m looking forward to that one, as well as the latest twists in the relegation battle. And that brings us on nicely to my predictions!

Joleon Lescott’s Premier League Matchday 23 predictions

Watford vs Norwich (Friday, 8pm, Sky Sports)

Joshua King and Watford host Norwich in a huge relegation six-pointer
Joshua King and Watford host Norwich in a huge relegation six-pointer

What a huge game to start the weekend! Being at home, I feel this is a must-win for Watford if they’re serious about survival. Norwich obviously need the points as well but I’ll go for the Hornets to grind out a precious win.

Prediction: Home win

Everton vs Aston Villa (Saturday, 12.30pm, BT Sport)

Steven Gerrard can expect a bit of stick on his return to Goodison Park but I think it’s important Everton fans don’t make it all about him. They’ll need to get behind their team because Villa were excellent late on against United.

Prediction: Away win

Brentford vs Wolves (Saturday, 3pm)

Wolves are quietly going under the radar in the top-six race and I’m absolutely loving it. Their defensive record in the last 10 games is outrageous. But Brentford caused them plenty of problems in the reverse fixture and this will be close.

Prediction: Draw

Leeds vs Newcastle (Saturday, 3pm)

I’ve got to go with Leeds based on what we’ve seen from both sides recently. Jack Harrison got all the headlines against West Ham but Raphina was outstanding as well — I see that pair running riot at a raucous Elland Road.

Prediction: Home win

Manchester United vs West Ham (Saturday, 3pm)

As discussed, this will be a case of the visitors looking to be solid as possible and then hit United where it hurts. Moyes will have a very clear plan in his mind and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get a result.

Prediction: Draw

Southampton vs Manchester City (Saturday, 5.30pm, Sky Sports)

Champions elect Manchester City host Southampton in Saturday's late kick-off
Champions elect Manchester City host Southampton in Saturday's late kick-off

You can’t go against City at the moment but Southampton have given them a few problems in recent seasons. Even still, it’s hard to see anyone laying a glove on the leaders.

Prediction: Away win

Crystal Palace vs Liverpool (Sunday, 2pm, Sky Sports)

I can see this being closer than the table would suggest. A packed Selhurst Park is a tough place to go at any time, never mind without two of your best players. If they play to their best, I can see Palace snatching a point.

Prediction: Draw

Arsenal vs Burnley (Sunday, 2pm)

We don’t really have any recent form to judge Burnley on, so I must go for an Arsenal win. Losing Chris Wood is such a blow, more so because of the way they play rather than his goal tally. I really do fear for them now.

Prediction: Home win. 

Leicester vs Brighton (Sunday, 2pm)

Two teams who are quite evenly matched and won’t budge in terms of their playing style. If this was at Brighton, I’d say it was a coin toss, but home advantage just gives the edge to Brendan Rodgers’ men. 

Prediction: Home win

Chelsea vs Tottenham (Sunday, 4.30pm, Sky Sports)

For all the reasons mentioned above, I’m going for a Chelsea win. The gulf in class between the two sides means Spurs need their opponents to have an off day as well as playing to a high level themselves. 

Prediction: Home win

Joleon Lescott was speaking to Matthew Hill

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