Only XI men in the entire world have the honour of taking the pitch in Chelsea Blue to defeat Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. Here are our picks for those lucky few.
We tip our hats to you, Anotnio Conte. Results have been excellent. Since Arsenal, Chelsea have been on fire. And that is good, because the Arsenal loss hurt.
Now the next opponent is Tottenham Hotspur. Stealing the title away from the was the highlight of Chelsea’s season last year. This year, Signor Conte, please make the highlight of the season a thrashing of Spurs.
Make Stamford Bridge a fortress.
Make Tottenham regret coming.
GK THIBAUT COURTOIS, Belgium
Courtois will likely work a bit in this game. He will face shots from all angles. The shots will often be unexpected, which is worrisome. Courtois is a very good goalkeeper, but if he has a weakness, it is unexpected shots.
If Tottenham are looking to score, they will take their shots from outside the box or with little build-up to throw Courtois off balance. Since that is something of Harry Kane’s forte, Courtois will have his work cut out for him.
CESAR AZPILICUETA, Spain
Cesar Azpilicueta playing out of position is the glue that holds the right side together. Victor Moses likes to bomb forward, leaving the right exposed. Pedro can cover a bit of that in the overlap, but it is down to Azpilicueta to stop the final advance down the right flank.
In possession, he is vital to getting the ball to N’Golo Kante as well as being an outlet for the Frenchman. Azpilicueta’s composure in all aspects is crucial to this Chelsea team.
DAVID LUIZ, Brazil
There was one moment during the Middlesbrough game where Davud Luiz was disposed at the half way line. This could have been disastrous had Eden Hazard not tracked back to reclaim the ball. Overall, Luiz has shown himself to be better than the defender that left Chelsea for Paris Saint-Germain.
Those lapses are never welcome, but they are easier to cope with against a team like Middlesbrough. If Chelsea are to get anything out of this game, Luiz will need to keep his errors to the minimum.
GARY CAHILL, England
Cahill can prove that he is not the weak link of the defense with this game. His position, both for club and country, is the most expendable for younger and fresher defenders.
For Chelsea, at least, Cahill has staved off John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, and the rapidly improving Kurt Zouma. He is likely to be rotated as the games come quickly in December. Now is the time to put his foot down and make a mark.
MARCOS ALONSO, Spain
Alonso does not get enough credit for his work in midfield. Moses and Matic have the advantage of being at Chelsea a while. Kante is simply a beast. And then there is Alonso, who quietly goes about his very important work. He supplies excellent crosses, which unfortunately have not been converted yet.
But most importantly, he frees Hazard to be dangerous. If Alonso can protect his flank from the pressure Spurs are likely to use, he will unleash the full force of Hazard onto the Spurs’ backline.
N’GOLO KANTE, France
How well Kante connects with Moses and Matic on both sides of the ball will decide this match. Kante will need to cover for Moses’ forward runs. He will also need to ensure that he and Matic are not getting split like they did several times by Adama Traore.
If Kante does these things, he will be man of the match and Chelsea will win. If he cannot, Chelsea will struggle to hold the Spurs offense at bay for the full 90.
NEMANJA MATIC, Serbia
Matic can make a pass from distance with the best of them. He was able to get a few passes off that only Cesc Fabregas would have attempted. Since Spurs are going to attempt to pressure Chelsea, the best outlet to Diego Costa or the wingers will likely be Matic.
He will only be able to do this with N’Golo Kante’s aid. Currently they are the league’s best midfield partnership, and Chelsea needs that to continue.
VICTOR MOSES, Nigeria
Early into the Middlesbrough match, a ball came over the top of the advanced Victor Moses and nearly cost Chelsea dearly. Mauricio Pochettio would have taken note of this and instructed his wingers to exploit Moses’ tendency to overlap Pedro.
Moses has shown himself to be an amazing wingback. But if Chelsea have a vulnerability, it is getting players behind Moses when he’s thinking about goal.
EDEN HAZARD, Belgium
Hazard knows what it is like to be targeted. He has left a few matches with bleeding ankles. Spurs targeted him last time they were at the Bridge. The Belgian responded by awakening from his slumber of 2015/2016 to score the goal that ended Tottenham’s title race.
The goal probably awakens Spurs defenders in the middle of the night. Hazard, of course, will laugh at this and do his best to give the Spurs nightmares for another few months.
DIEGO COSTA, Spain
It is hard to tell exactly when it happened, but Costa has found his Zen. He is no longer the rough and tough, score-first-ask-questions-later striker. Now he is calm, cool, and collected. The goal against Middlesbrough was pure reflex. He has stopped fighting and started playing.
Costa’s softness in personal life has entered into his playing persona. Costa will not foul for the sake of fouling anymore. He will simply score, fist pump the crowd, and accept Conte’s hug at the end of the match.
Pedro should have scored two goals against Middlesbrough. Victor Valdes saved one shot, and the other hit the crossbar. With slightly better finishing, the match would not have been as hectic towards the end as it was. It is near impossible to justify anyone being dropped, including Pedro. Willian will get his minutes in December, but until then the spot is Pedro’s to lose.