Tottenham’s last six Premier League games of the season have been given various labels by fans and media alike – ‘six Cup Finals’, ‘must-win games’, vital crucial matches. There are ‘must-win games’ and ‘must-win games’ throughout the season but this evening’s match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge comes into a special category – it is a ‘MUST-win game’. For such an important match, Tottenham can take encouragement from their recent games against Chelsea.A win at Stamford Bridge is crucial to both clubs, any other result will leave the final two matches of the season as a lottery possibly determined by a combination of their own results and Arsenal’s, by the good fortune, or not, of a refereeing decision or even by the attitude/interest of the opposing teams in the remaining fixtures.
Chelsea will be favourites, having put together a good run of results in recent weeks under Rafa Benitez, including reaching the Europa League Final. Tottenham’s form has been patchy, hindered by injuries, but they have managed to find a little extra to rescue games which seemed to have passed them by – with late goals against Everton, Manchester City, Wigan and Southampton.
Many Chelsea fans will regard the match as a guaranteed three points on the basis of Tottenham’s record at Stamford Bridge where they haven’t won since a 2 – 1 success in 1990. The goals were scored by David Howells and Gary Lineker with Lineker heading the winner from a Nayim cross with two minutes remaining. Spurs finished that season in third place.
Spurs have not won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League era, they have lost thirteen of the twenty Premier League matches played but prior to this period Spurs’ away record against Chelsea was very good.
Premier League Record at Stamford Bridge:
P 20 W 0 D 7 L 13 For 12 Ag 37
Away Record at Chelsea pre-Premier League (Old 1st & 2nd Div.):
P 44 W 19 D 7 L 18 For 67 Ag 56
Overall League Record:
P 64 W 19 D 14 L 31 For 79 Ag 93
The stats clearly show the dramatic change in fortunes that has occurred since the arrival of the Premier League. From a ground where Spurs had a good record, it has become one not to be discussed and will be wheeled out once again by commentators and Chelsea fans alike as a reason why the three points are Chelsea’s for the taking. It is hard to argue against such comments but perhaps this is the time to bring the run to an end as Spurs have done in recent years at Anfield, the Emirates and now Old Trafford.
Recent Matches against Chelsea
Setting aside that record, Spurs can be encouraged by recent matches against Chelsea. Last season, at the end of March, Spurs had by far the better of the scoreless draw with Chelsea and took a deserved point from Stamford Bridge. Although scoreless, after a quiet first half Spurs finished the stronger and had the greater opportunities to win the three points with Petr Cech making important saves and a goal line block required.
Apr. 2011 PL Lost 1 – 2 Sandro
This match is typical of what has happened to Spurs when facing ‘top 4′ opposition in recent years. Spurs had taken a deserved first half lead through a great shot from Sandro, his first goal for Spurs. It looked as if they were going to have the advantage at the interval until with a minute to go Lampard took a speculative shot from distance. It should have posed little threat for the goalkeeper, but Heurelho Gomes let it slip through his grasp and roll towards the line. He managed to retrieve the situation and stopped it crossing the line but the referee’s assistant signaled, incorrectly, that it was a goal and Chelsea were level. This was just the lift that the home team needed, Spurs never regained the ascendancy of the first half but were looking set for a point with a minute to go, only for Chelsea to score from an offside position.
Earlier in the season, Chelsea won 4 – 2 at White Hart Lane and while they were deserving of the points on the day, Spurs did cause their visitors some concerns in the second half. A goal down at the interval, Spurs scored twice in the second half through William Gallas and Jermain Defoe. Spurs without Gareth Bale and Mousa Dembele were causing Chelsea difficulties until Juan Mate scored twice in three minutes midway through the half. The fourth goal came on time as Spurs were looking for an equaliser. The loss of the two players had come at short notice with Dembele injured during the international break and Bale leaving White Hart Lane hurriedly to attend the birth of his daughter, so Totttenham had no opportunity to plan and prepare for playing without such important players for the first time.
That win was Chelsea’s first in five visits to the Lane and on the previous two occasions they were relieved to get away with a point with John Terry having to make a goal line clearance in the final moments of the game to deny Emmanuel Adebayor. I haven’t overlooked last season’s FA Cup semi-final defeat at Wembley but having conceded yet another ‘phantom’ goal the team were left rather demoralised.
This match is not about Andre Villas-Boas returning to Chelsea to make a point against his former club. It’s about taking three points and to that end discipline is the key for Tottenham. Whoever is selected, must remain focused and concentrate to ensure that they deliver the strategy and game plan that is devised to counter Chelsea.
Once again Tottenham come into a crucial match with injury concerns. Dembele went off on Saturday in the first for the second successive match so I would be very surprised to see him playing. Scott Parker failed a late fitness test but may return in midfield. There are doubts over Aaron Lennon who started on Saturday but had little involvement in the game while Bale doesn’t look completely fit having just returned after two weeks out. All eyes will be on him once again as the player to lift Tottenham but perhaps a player like Clint Dempsey will provide the goals this time.
- A Chelsea win would guarantee them Champions League football next year because of their superior goal difference.
- A draw would leave all three clubs within three points of each other. Tottenham would then need to win both remaining games while requiring either Chelsea or Arsenal to drop points in their final two games. Chelsea would need only three points to stay ahead of Spurs but Arsenal would have to win both games to beat Tottenham’s maximum possible total of 72 points.
- A Tottenham win would move them ahead of Arsenal and level with Chelsea with two further wins required to achieve the season’s objective.
In recent games Tottenham’s displays have disappointed. This is a match where they must be fully committed with so much at stake. Tottenham fans are hoping they can revive the spirit of the Etihad in 2010 and that’s certainly what’s needed. If Spurs fail to deliver a performance in such an important match, then they simply don’t deserve to be vying for a place in the Champions League. I am confident that they will deliver a performance at Stamford Bridge and after that we’ll have to wait and see how it pans out. Everyone must remember, however, that a win at Stamford Bridge would be only the first step of three for Spurs with two further wins required against Stoke City and Sunderland.