Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon in the biggest game of both sides’ seasons to date.
Frank Lampard’s in-form side go into the match knowing a victory would see them overtake their bitter rivals in the league table. However, Jose Mourinho will be more motivated than ever to beat his former club such is the state of the season.
Make no mistake, Chelsea v Tottenham is a game between two genuine title contenders. Both Lampard and Mourinho have assembled squads full of quality and depth. As a result, there will be high-quality battles all over the pitch. Here we take a look at the three key battles which Chelsea will have to win if they’re to defeat their biggest rival.
Thiago Silva v Harry Kane
Likely to be the single most important battle on the pitch, Thiago Silva and Harry Kane are two world-class players in their respective positions.
The Brazilian will require every ounce of experience and quality when he comes up against the man many see as the league’s best centre-forward. Harry Kane has notched an incredible seven goals and nine assists in the league so far.
Often dropping into a deep role, Kane has combined with Heung-Min Son to devastating effect. The Kane-Son combination has been prolific. Lampard’s tactics are sure to be influenced in some respect by the danger that Spurs’ two elite attackers pose.
Thiago Silva and Harry Kane are both world-class performers. Chelsea need Silva’s experience, quality and calming influence to ensure that Kane is kept quiet.
N’Golo Kante v Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
N’Golo Kante and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are two of the league’s leading midfield destroyers. When they come head-to-head on Sunday, the key men in each side’s respective midfields will have to be on top of their game.
Kante has excelled at the base of Chelsea’s midfield since Lampard’s switch to a dynamic 4-3-3. While this has maximised Chelsea’s undoubted attacking potential, it’s also seen a huge upturn of influence for the Frenchman.
Kante is making 2.8 tackles and 3 interceptions per 90, highlighting his exceptional ball-winning pedigree. With an 88.5% pass completion to match, it’s clear that Lampard has managed to unlock the most effective version of his biggest midfield asset.
Speaking of effective, Spurs’ Danish #5 was not a particularly inspiring £15m summer signing from Southampton. However, it appears to have been an excellent piece of business.
Hojbjerg is a perfect midfield lynchpin for Jose Mourinho, almost acting as a second manager on the pitch. The Dane has tactical nous and leadership quality, as well as an understanding of his own limitations. Hojbjerg averages 3.2 tackles per game while keeping his side ticking over with 89.5% pass completion.
The contest between two of the league’s leading midfield destroyers is likely to impact then game immensely. Kante, along with Thiago Silva, will be central to Chelsea’s plan to stop Kane. Hojbjerg will act as Mourinho’s lieutenant on the pitch. Both are vital cogs in their machine and it’s the one who functions efficiently that is likely to taste success.
Timo Werner v Serge Aurier
Playing from the left, Timo Werner has looked more and more dangerous by the week in Chelsea’s attack. Eight goals in fourteen appearances represents a fine start to Werner’s Chelsea career.
Since playing from the left, Werner has been able to utilise his fantastic movement and appreciation of space. His electric speed was the catalyst for a stunning assist to Tammy Abraham away at Newcastle.
He has also been able to win multiple penalties and this brings us onto the player Werner is likely to be in direct opposition against on Sunday.
Serge Aurier is likely to start for Tottenham following his rest against Ludogorets in the Europa League. Aurier has been known to be impetuous and dive into tackles during his time at Tottenham. Aurier does make 4.3 tackles per game however, his two fouls per game will interest Werner and the rest of Chelsea’s attackers.
A player with a propensity to dive into tackles against a player with such speed could prove to be a defining battle. Having drawn a blank in his last two, Werner will feel as if he is due a goal.
As Chelsea host Tottenham, the key protagonists are sure to prove vital to the outcome. Mourinho is likely to try and shut-up-shop and counter with his two-star attackers. Lampard’s record against his former boss has been good thus far and I am quietly confident this can continue on Sunday. It will be a close encounter but Chelsea to win 2-0 is my hunch.