On Sunday afternoon, Tottenham Hotspur face London rivals Chelsea in the first top of the table clash of the season. Despite finishing 1st and 2nd last campaign, both clubs are widely touted to be beaten to these spots by the financial powerhouses of Manchester United and Manchester City up north.
The drama and scepticism surrounding both sides’ management and morale, due to Danny Rose’s public complaints and the mishandling of Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic, gives the clash added significance with Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte desperate for a win.
With the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Toby Alderweireld, Spurs’ starting eleven is arguably the strongest in the Premier League. The rest of their squad, however, is significantly weaker, resulting in either poor season finishes or Champions League failure in the last couple of seasons.
Only two weeks remain of the transfer window and Pochettino’s side have failed to bring in any new players, while losing Kyle Walker to Man City for £50m.
Although they have been linked to Davidson Sanchez and Serge Aurier in recent days, Daniel Levy has described investing in big-money signings as ‘unsustainable spending’ and would rather put his trust in his manager’s ability to bring through youth players.
Danny Rose’s recent interview with the Sun was undoubtedly poorly timed and disrespectful, yet did highlight the contempt some players felt towards the wage structure and signings ‘you have to Google’
Levy’s unwillingness to waste money and trust in youth is commendable, however if his side are going to win the title and compete in Europe, he will have to raise wages not only to prevent their stars from leaving, but also to attract high quality players.
On the contrary to their London rivals, it has been Chelsea’s outgoings that have been the problem this summer.
Antonio Rudiger, Alvaro Morata and Tiemou Bakayoko are good signings, however have been overshadowed by the abandonment of promising youth players and the mishandling of Costa and Matic.
Nemanja Matic was pivotal in The Blues’ title victory last season and formed a perfect partnership with French workhorse N’golo Kante in the centre of the park. Despite this he was sold to direct title rivals Man United, where he has already shown his £40m value in a stellar performance against West Ham last Sunday.
Furthermore, Conte publicly announced early in the transfer window that Costa was not in his plans, decreasing the money they’ll be able to recoup for the forward and creating an ongoing scandal around Stamford Bridge.
The departures of promising youngsters Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah are also frustrating, especially when they play in the same positions and arguably have similar potential as the incomings.
Contrasting First Gameweeks:
When Chelsea fans discovered they would face Burnley at home in the first game of the season, they couldn’t have hoped for a better start. However they came out of Saturday’s encounter as 3-2 losers, after Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas’s red cards proved to be decisive.
Morata looked promising though: netting once and providing an assist in only 30 minutes of Premier League action.
Spurs’ first game form was poor in the last couple of years: failing to win since the 2014/15 season. However being drawn against promoted Newcastle United was certainly a more favourable than Everton and Manchester United, who they faced in the 2016/17 and 2015/16 seasons respectively.
The hosts were giving Pochettino’s side a good game until Jonjo Shelvey was given as straight red for an idiotic stamp on Dele Alli’s ankle, instantaneously altering the balance of the game as Alli and Davies went on to score the only two goals of the game, both of which were assisted by standout performer Christian Eriksen.
First choice fullbacks Rose and Kieran Trippier remain sidelined, while wingers Erik Lamela and Georges-Kevin N’koudou are also unavailable.
Pedro is out through injury, while new signing Bakayoko and forward Eden Hazard are doubtful. Cahill and Fabregas are also unable to feature, due to the red cards they received against Burnley.
- Hugo Lloris
- Kyle Walker-Peters, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Ben Davies
- Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama
- Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son
- Harry Kane
- Thibaut Courtois
- Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Andreas Christensen
- Cesar Azpilicueta, N’golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Marcos Alonso
- Willian, Alvaro Morata, Eden Hazard
Following a torrid history at the ground, Spurs season ticket holders will be nervous about playing a whole Premier League season at Wembley, especially considering the FA Cup Semi-Final loss last campaign. Cahill and Fabregas’s suspensions may prove costly and Spurs will go into the game as the more confident side, due to last weekend’s results. Pochettino has also proven his ability to tactically outsmart the Blues and I think his side will come out 2-1 winners, with Alli, Kane and Morata netting the goals.