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Tottenham vs. Chelsea: How Spurs Should Line Up in Premier League Game

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 31 Dec 2014

The arrival of Chelsea at White Hart Lane on New Year's Day marks a litmus test for Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham.Jose Mourinho's team is the strongest in England, and one of the most powerful in Europe. When Spurs travelled to Stamford Bridge just a month ago it was a chastening experience.Spurs had already begun their improved run of results when they faced Chelsea. Just days earlier they had produced their best performance of the season to date in a 2-1 win over Everton.The defeat at the Bridge was a humbling one but didn't disrupt Spurs' improvement. In seven subsequent matches, Spurs have been beaten just once. That, an away tie against Besiktas in the Europa League, featured a largely changed lineup.That won't be the case when Chelsea arrive at the Lane.Pochettino will surely name his strongest possible team to face the league leaders.GoalkeeperHugo Lloris' position as Tottenham's No. 1 is unimpeachable. Having taken up the captaincy in the absence of Younes Kaboul, Lloris has added leadership to his numerous qualities.He is Tottenham's best player and one of the world's leading goalkeepers. Any arguments for David de Gea or Thibaut Courtois as England's best keeper would certainly have merits but Lloris can stand alongside any of Europe's best.When Spurs face Chelsea, Lloris will certainly be selected in goal.DefenceSpurs' defence is growing with every game. Pochettino clearly has a first-choice back four and that is having a positive impact on their results.After 19 matches in 2013-14, Spurs had conceded 24 goals. This season, after the same number of fixtures, their defensive record is identical. The difference is the trend.Last December, Spurs shipped 18 goals in the seven matches up to Boxing Day. This season, they have seen just eight goals scored by the opposition in their last seven Premier League games.The central-defensive partnership of Federico Fazio and Jan Vertonghen showed immediate promise when they began playing regular matches together in November. Now that progress is being noticed with the English papers praising the pair after Sunday's goalless draw against Manchester United.They form the heart of Spurs' developing defence and will play a vital role against Chelsea. Fazio has an explosive history with Chelsea forward Diego Costa from their time in Spain. Costa was suspended for the December clash but will lead Chelsea's attack on New Year's Day.Kyle Walker and Ben Davies are also certain to return to be named in the lineup against Chelsea. Walker was rotated out against Manchester United with Vlad Chiriches deputising, but his performance was not enough to unseat the incumbent Walker.MidfieldChelsea are frighteningly strong across the park but it is their midfield that really sets them apart in England. Few teams have such quality in midfield and Spurs will need to be at their best to match them.Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason were also rotated out against Man United but both should return to face Chelsea. Bentaleb and Mason both have the energy and tenacity necessary to combat the intelligence of Cesc Fabregas and the power of Nemanja Matic.Spurs' young central-midfield pairing will help break down Chelsea's attack and provide the base to launch counters. That proved a source of several excellent chances in this season's earlier fixture.With Christian Eriksen, a certain selection in central midfield, providing the crucial link between midfield and attack, Spurs will be well setup to threaten Chelsea.AttackFan-favourite Harry Kane is another certain selection on New Year's Day. Fatigue is beginning to take a toll on Kane but he remains the best option in attack.On the wings, Pochettino should take something of a gamble and select Erik Lamela. Lamela endured a frustrating performance at Stamford Bridge but he remains a genuine threat, particularly on the break.Nacer Chadli should provide the balance on the other flank. The Belgian began the season in excellent scoring form but hasn't managed a Premier League goal since scoring in back-to-back matches in early November. It would be delightful if Chadli could break his scoreless streak against Chelsea.Pochettino's lineup against Chelsea is predictable. He is unlikely to spring any selection surprises in such an important game and the fact that he rested several key players against United suggests he has had an eye on this match for some time.While he did throw Roberto Soldado into the lineup against Man City in October, he is unlikely to take that risk on New Year's Day. He knows what his best team is and he'll surely select it against Chelsea.After an early scare, Chelsea brushed Spurs aside in early December. When they meet again on New Year's Day, Pochettino will hope for a more competitive performance.With the competition for top-four places heating up, a rare victory against Chelsea would be the perfect start to the second half of the season.
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