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Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday January 23rd, Stamford Bridge, kick off 4:30pm

by John Spillane

Sunday afternoon sees a top 5 clash between London rivals, as Antonio Conte brings fifth placed Tottenham (eight points adrift but with four games in hand) across the capital to face the team he led to the Premier league title in 2018, third placed Chelsea.

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Having already overcome their rivals 3-0 on aggregate in the Carabao Cup semi final Thomas Tuchel's side will come into this fixture in confident mood. This is despite their recent indifferent league form which has seen them win only once in the last six, with their last home win coming on December 11th (Leeds 3-2). Injuries to wing backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James have necessitated a change in style and the goal tally has dropped off remarkably with 16 in the last 10 games, compared to 30 in the opening 13. Romelu Lukaku's season has been injury hit, but even when available he has yet to make the anticipated contribution (five goals in 15). Mason Mount after a bright opening has been less effective of late, while Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz have also been quiet.

Expectations are always high in this part of London and while Chelsea have stuttered in recent months their one time title rivals, Manchester City, have been almost perfect and have opened up a 12 point lead. Tuchel knows that the team can not afford to keep dropping points, with a top 4 finishing position the minimum required. Having played 18 games in the last 59 days they have looked tired but their expensively assembled squad, mixed with home grown products, should really be strong enough to deal with such a fixture list.

Antonio Conte was in charge of Chelsea the last time Tottenham won at the Bridge back in April 2018. And having come from behind in injury time to win at Leicester on Wednesday night, courtesy of two Steven Bergwijn goals, they should be in confident mood. Harry Kane also scored for the fourth time in his last five Premier league games so, despite the continued absence of Son Heung-min, new optimism has been injected into a season. Since Conte took charge on November 2nd the team are unbeaten in nine (W6, D3, goals 17-6) with five clean sheets.

Matt Doherty replaced the injured Emerson at half time in midweek and could get to start at wing-back on Sunday, with the team employing a three pronged central defensive system. This allows their wing-backs Doherty and Sergio Reguilon the opportunity to get forward. The midfield battle will see Oliver Skipp, Harry Winks and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg try to clamp down on the oppositions playmakers, while supporting Kane and Lucas Moura.

The hosts abilities to cause problems from set pieces through Antinio Rudiger, Lukaku and Thiago Silva could be decisive in what is likely to be a closely fought 90 minutes.

Suggestet bet : Chelsea to win to nil (7/4 at bet365)

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