Tottenham prepare for big test as Chelsea visit Wembley with title contender status on the line

Aditya Devavrat 10:50 23/11/2018
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Tottenham have to prove themselves again.

Tottenham host Chelsea on Saturday as the Premier League returns from an international break with a blockbuster fixture straight off the bat.

Spurs are one point and one place behind third-place Chelsea in the league table, and both sides will know they can ill afford a slip-up with Liverpool and Manchester City looking dominant.

Here’s a look at the key talking points from the game.

ANOTHER TEST FOR SPURS

Another big-six clash for Tottenham, and yet again it’s a test of their status. Spurs have never gotten to a point where these games were simply big games, rather than a referendum on where they stand as a club.

Having answered the questions about whether they could win away from home in these matches by beating Chelsea towards the end of last season and Manchester United to start this one, the spotlight now turns to their home form. Two home losses to Liverpool and City followed that win over United.

Losing a third straight big game at home would leave Tottenham four points behind the top three, not a fatal margin but one that will lead to more questions about whether they’re stagnating.

There have been rumblings to that end this term, even as Spurs made their best-ever start to a Premier League season. With Tottenham’s move into a new stadium continually delayed, and a summer of no signings, it has felt like Mauricio Pochettino’s side are hitting a wall. The losses to Liverpool and City only served to emphasise that. Champions League struggles haven’t helped, either.

Of course, winning would propel them above Chelsea, and at the very least keep them within five points of City, the league leaders, while also serving as another statement win. So which one will it be from Tottenham?

Tottenham have lost at home to Liverpool and City in their last two big-six games.

Tottenham have lost at home to Liverpool and City in their last two big-six games.

IS JORGINHO ALREADY CHELSEA’S MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER?

Previous gameplans to stop Chelsea have revolved around Eden Hazard. Jose Mourinho has effectively man-marked the Belgian out of a game twice in Manchester United’s wins over the Blues, which comes as no surprise. Hazard has long been Chelsea’s best player. He’s earned the extra attention teams pay him.

But in the final fixture before the international break, Everton turned their attentions to a player who’s only been at the club for four months.

They earned a draw against the Blues by denying Jorginho time and space on the ball, to the point where he completed the fewest passes of his Chelsea tenure. Toffees manager Marco Silva acknowledged that they chose to focus on the Italian, rather than Hazard, in an attempt to disrupt Chelsea’s play.

There’s a tactical lesson for Spurs in the effectiveness of Silva’s strategy, but if more teams adopt it successfully, it will lead to far more existential questions for Chelsea.

At the end of the season, Hazard will be entering the final year of his contract, and he has made no hint of his desire to leave West London. If the rest of the league starts showing Chelsea that they no longer consider him to be the Blues’ most important player, what bearing will that have on his future?

Is Jorginho already Chelsea's most important player?

Is Jorginho already Chelsea’s most important player?

TOTTENHAM’S SUPPORTING ACTORS NEED TO STAR

Tottenham’s three highest-profile attacking players have a history of success against Chelsea. Christian Eriksen has two goals and five assists in 11 appearances against the Blues, Harry Kane four and two in nine, and Dele Alli an astonishing five goals and one assist in five appearances.

That sort of form from multiple star players in a big game is the perfect formula for most teams. Yet Kane and Eriksen have only enjoyed three wins over Chelsea, with Alli having been present for two of them.

The obvious solution is that Spurs’ other players need to step up. In all likelihood two of Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min, and Erik Lamela will start alongside Tottenham’s big three, and whoever takes the pitch will need to match the level of their more feted peers.

Both Moura and Lamela have shown good form this season, though the latter missed a glorious chance to rescue a point against City. Son hasn’t quite been at his best, but games like this often bring out the best in him – especially considering his prowess on the counter.

Tottenham will need a complete performance to beat Chelsea, and while that also means good showings from the defence and midfield, it would help if Eriksen, Kane, and Alli know their teammates have their back.

Tottenham's star trio needs their teammates to step up.

Tottenham’s star trio needs their teammates to step up.

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