Chelsea start 2015 as the Premier League leaders, and they face their first game of the year at White Hart Lane against a Tottenham side who are nothing if not unpredictable. The Blues will be looking to bounce back from their draw at Southampton on Sunday, but they face a Spurs side who have been playing better of late as they look to make a push for the top four.
Coming into this one, the Blues actually have Burnley to thank for their spot at the top of the table. The draw with Southampton meant Manchester City could have taken over top spot ahead of this game, as they kick off earlier on Thursday. But Burnley rallied at the Etihad and came back from two goals down to draw with City, keeping Manuel Pellegrini’s men three points behind the league leaders.
Chelsea are going to face a battle to keep that advantage with Spurs in good form and given that the north Londoners have really started to improve defensively. They held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw on Sunday, and they won their last four games before that. They’re just two points off fourth place after picking themselves up from a poor start and problems that occurred as a result of trying to balance domestic and European football.
The hosts also come into this with a fully fit squad, so they have a chance at turning around the awful form they have against Chelsea. They’ve failed to beat the Blues in 10 meetings, including their 3-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge at the start of December. If they’re going to get a positive result, they’ll need the likes of Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane to be at their best.
Jan Vertonghen is another one to watch, as he’s formed a good partnership with Federico Fazio this season. They’ve only lost one game while playing together, but that was the defeat at Stamford Bridge, and Vertonghen put in a poor performance that day. Given that came against Didier Drogba and, later, Loic Remy, it will be interesting to see how they fare against the more wily Diego Costa.
Chelsea have no injury worries heading in to this one, and after the rotation at Southampton and the subsequent four day break we expect to see close to the strongest team back for the trip to north London. With Mourinho looking to get back to winning ways, it’s hard to see him rotating much before this game, especially when he can change the side for the weekend cup game against Watford.
While this is a tough game for the league leaders, it is also an important one, as it highlights the difficulty of their fixture list compared to City. The game at Spurs is their fifth of six away games against last season’s top seven, while City have only faced one of those teams on the road. Even if the lead at the top shortens on Thursday, the Blues know they’ve overcome one of the last big challenges they have on their path to the title.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1