Tottenham Hotspur will visit Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea this weekend in a London Derby that can have serious implications on the race for securing a Champions League berth. The reverse fixture saw a win for Chelsea and this game promises to be a heated one.
Spurs are just one point behind their rivals and a win would see them leapfrog Chelsea into fourth place. On the other hand, a win for Chelsea would see them strengthen their hold on a top-four spot and qualification for the Champions League next year.
Here are three key battles to look out for from the game.
#3 Callum Hudson-Odoi/Willian vs Serge Aurier
Serge Aurier could be in for a tough evening against Callum Hudson-Odoi if the English winger is fit to start. The Ivorian right-back is not particularly disciplined in his position and he favours bombing forward, leaving behind swathes of space. If Hudson-Odoi positions himself in a more advanced role, he could have space and time to be an important attacker for Chelsea.
In the reverse fixture, Willian was the star in a similar role and even if the Brazilian plays, he would be looking forward to the prospect of playing against Aurier. Mourinho, of course, could issue strict instructions to Aurier to stay in his position but the right-back's natural instincts could prove to be his undoing.
Hudson-Odoi needs a strong performance and Aurier will be experiencing some fatigue after the tough midweek Champions League game against RB Leipzig. The English winger will have no excuses if he starts against Tottenham and fails to perform. Similarly, Willian was extremely poor against United and will be looking to make amends.
#2 Mateo Kovacic vs Tanguy Ndombele
Mateo Kovacic and Tanguy Ndombele are arguably the best dribbling midfielders in the league. Both are extremely press-resistant, strong on the ball and physically imposing. If the game is cagey, either Kovacic or Ndombele could be the key to breaking the deadlock.
Both Chelsea and Spurs do not usually play a pure attacking midfielder. They rely on the contributions from the central midfielders and Dele Alli is practically a second striker for Tottenham.
Therefore, Kovacic and Ndombele will be tasked with bursting through the lines with the ball and moving it forward. On the other hand, their defensive roles will also be essential to ensuring their respective sides are not overrun in midfield.
Kovacic, especially, will need to be alert considering N'Golo Kante will miss the game leaving Chelsea without a proper defensive midfielder.
#1 Steven Bergwijn vs Reece James
Steven Bergwijn has looked positive for Tottenham since his move from PSV Eindhoven in the January transfer window. The Dutch winger scored on his debut in the league with a well-taken goal and will be keen on scoring against Tottenham's arch-rivals. Bergwijn faces a formidable opponent in Reece James. The Chelsea right-back has been a solid fixture during a tough run of form and his skillset both offensively and defensively is extremely impressive.
The battle between Bergwijn and James could dictate the outcome of the game itself. If James can get forward as well as keep Bergwijn quiet, Chelsea will be primed to exploit Tottenham's defensive weaknesses on the flanks.
In the same way, if Bergwijn can find space for himself, he could cut inside to trouble an extremely vulnerable Chelsea defence. The common denominator is that both sides have an unsettled defence.
Spurs are no better than Chelsea when it comes to recent defensive form. While the midfields could be compact, the wings will be focal points of both attacks.Published 20 Feb 2020, 16:52 IST