Sunday’s London derby away to Chelsea is a brutal, early test for Antonio Conte‘s new-look Tottenham team. With temperatures set to be scorching at Stamford Bridge, Spurs need to bring their own heat to the clash and make a statement.
Tottenham Hotspur now sits top of the league after a single game which is all very exciting, but with the prospect of Chelsea away on Sunday afternoon and 36 more games after that, it’s a long and turbulent road to finish top of the league.
Playing Chelsea away at Stamford Bridge has always been a problematic and frustrating affair. From dreadful refereeing decisions against Spurs to the mental block that any player who wears the colours of Tottenham seems to have when playing there. It’s a ground we’ve only won once at in almost 30 years. Coincidentally, against a Chelsea side managed by Antonio Conte back in 2018.
Last season, Tottenham Hotspur lost to Chelsea a staggering four times, with defeats coming in both league games and in cup games too. But what’s changed since our last defeat to Chelsea back in January?
For starters, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Tottenham line-up with seven defensive players and two midfielders who tend to play deeper rather than in the final third in Harry Winks and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
I’m confident we won’t see two isolated strikers having to drop in too deep just to get the ball and create any goal-scoring chances. It also won’t be the case for Matt Doherty to play a left-wing-back role.
It’s possible Conte won’t change anything from Saturday’s fixture against Southampton unless the Italian is forced to through last-minute injuries or illness. Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur looked extremely well suited together. Emerson Royal played with so much confidence that it was like he was a new signing, completely undoing last season’s mixed sentiment around his game.
However, our summer signings give Conte a good headache. Yves Bissouma should complement Bentancur extremely well. Bissouma’s strengths could also be highlighted as Bentancurs weaker points. Our new signing is quite urgent in his tackling and movement and isn’t prone to lapses in judgment when it comes to the pace at which he’s closed down.
Bentancur, whilst extremely silky and Dimitar Berbatov-esque, shall we say, can sometimes get himself in a tricky situation when playing out of deeper areas. Although, it’s not overly common. Occasionally, his positioning off the ball can be questioned, too. This is something Bissouma can counter-balance, creating an ideal partnership for Tottenham.
Dejan Kulusevski is back, setting the league on fire. With his trickery and deceptive movement, Kulusevski is a problem for any defence. He put in such an impressive performance last weekend that if Conte even were to want to bring in Richarlison to make his Spurs debut, he’s maybe just as likely to replace Heung-Min Son as Kulusevski for the menacing Brazilian forward.
Ben Davies will likely start ahead of Clement Lenglet, and I wouldn’t be overly surprised if Ryan Sessegnon holds his place over Ivan Perisic, too. Whilst both the new boys can offer Tottenham a lot right from the off against London rivals Chelsea, Conte may go with familiarity over new in a fixture of this nature, especially as both players are new to the league and its pace.
Although it may have been interesting to see new names feature in the starting 11 against Southampton, seeing a completely overhauled bench showcasing so much quality was breathtaking enough as a Spurs fan.
Tottenham can’t afford to crumble against Chelsea again, no matter how early into the season it is. This weekend’s fixture should be a statement of intent.