Unstoppable force meets immovable object as Spurs face Chelsea
Tottenham are on a four-match winning run in the Premier League, while league leaders Chelsea are unbeaten as the two sides clash in today’s London derby at White Hart Lane.
It is seven years since Chelsea last triumphed at White Hart Lane and, should Tottenham extend their winning run against their unbeaten London rivals today, it will be cause for an extra sense of satisfaction.
Chelsea’s fortunate victory over Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League Final not only handed Roman Abramovich the one trophy he has always craved, it also snatched away Spurs’ right to compete in this season’s competition, rendering their fourth-placed Premier League finish irrelevant.
Chelsea’s success had significant ramifications for Spurs – not least their failure to sign the Belgium international Eden Hazard, who joined the Blues for �32million during the summer, but revealed that things might have worked out very differently.
“Tottenham tempted me because it was a young team which was third in the league,” said Hazard. “Unfortunately, the end of the season did not go well. They did not reach the Champions League, which tipped the balance.”
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Those words only increased the pain of that fateful night in Munich in May, and Hazard’s international team-mate, Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen, admits that the Blues have signed a real star.
“Eden Hazard is a really amazing player,” he said. “He did a lot in France [with Lille] and I know him from the national team.
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“He’s a small guy but his technique is amazing and I think people will enjoy his way of playing in the Premier League. I hope he will do well – but not that well!”
So far Hazard has proven himself to be worthy of the hype – and there was plenty of it as he weighed up his options during the summer – after playing a key role in Chelsea’s storming start to the season.
Roberto Di Matteo’s team remain outsiders for the title behind the two Manchester clubs, but six wins and a draw from their opening seven league games suggest they should be taken seriously.
As ever, much of the early focus has fallen on Fernando Torres, with the Spanish striker’s form and fitness remaining a constant subject of speculation.
However, this season Torres seems a more content player, and he already has six goals to show from his first 12 matches in all competitions.
His improved form may well be down to the quality of service provided by Hazard, alongside Chelsea’s other flagship signing, 21-year-old Brazilian star Oscar – who was also a target for Tottenham in the close season.
Between them, the two stylish playmakers should provide more than enough service for Torres to thrive in front of goal.
“Marko Marin, Oscar and me, we like to have the ball at our feet,” said Hazard. “Juan Mata likes the ball, so does Ramires.”
That said, there remain doubts over whether the Blues can find the net with enough regularity to win the title.
The loss of Didier Drogba is good news for Spurs, who will remember the Ivorian’s thunderous opening goal in the Blues’ 5-1 victory in the FA Cup semi-final last season.
However, such a margin is a rarity between these sides, who drew both league meetings last campaign – 1-1 at the Lane and 0-0 at Stamford Bridge – and Saturday’s clash promises to be just as close.
Torres is likely to spearhead a three-man attack, supported from wide by Mata and Hazard. Oscar presents a threat behind Torres, with two of Frank Lampard, Ramires and John Obi Mikel occupying the defensive midfield positions.
John Terry will be absent as he begins a four-match ban, so Gary Cahill is set to partner David Luiz in the centre of the defence, with Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic in the full-back slots ahead of goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Tottenham’s head coach Andre Villas-Boas said: “At the moment I think it’s important for us to go nearer the top.
“There are two teams unbeaten in the Premier League – Manchester City and Chelsea. To a certain extent Chelsea are showing some form that Man City showed last year - not with the same points but they are certainly very efficient and with great attacking flow. They are a very dynamic side full of youth and creative players, and this is something we have to take into account.
“It is never going be an easy game for us. This kind of motivation that we feel towards this game, the opposition will feel in exactly the same way. Certainly we want to win, because it might give us a chance to go nearer those spots where we think we belong at the end of the season, but there will be many other games and we still have to continue to improve.”
The verdict: With both teams in top form it is hard to see a winner at the Lane. Recent clashes between the two sides have tended to finish level, and so will this one – 1-1