Premier League leaders Chelsea face Tottenham on Wednesday aiming for a remarkable fourteenth successive win. Victory for Antonio Conte’s side would extend their lead at the top of the table to eight points.
Anyone hoping for a competitive title race is therefore likely to be supporting Spurs. Mauricio Pochettino’s men come into the game in good form having won their past four matches. They were especially impressive in their most recent fixture, a 4-1 thrashing of Watford.
However, nobody can match Chelsea’s recent record. The Blues will become the first team in top flight history to win 14 games in a row in a single season if they prevail on Wednesday night.
The match brings together two of the league’s most admired managers. Conte has transformed a side which had woefully underperformed last season, while Pochettino has continued his good work and is clearly building a special team at White Hart Lane.
But the game will be won and lost on the pitch, where it promises to be an evenly-matched contest. Here are five key battles to look out for.
Diego Costa vs Jan Vertonghen
Chelsea striker Costa has returned to top form this season after an indifferent campaign in 2015/16. He is the Premier League’s leading scorer with 14 goals. The belligerent Spaniard may fancy his chances up against the returning Vertonghen. The Belgian defender missed the Watford win through suspension.
Eden Hazard vs Victor Wanyama
Like Costa, Hazard looks to be his old self again after a below-par season. He already has nine league goals this term, having failed to score at all at the same stage in 2015/16. Wanyama has undoubtedly added strength to Spurs’ midfield since his transfer from Southampton in the summer. However, he will need to keep his discipline up against the trickery of Hazard – he has committed 39 fouls in the Premier League this season (joint-second most).
Victor Moses vs Danny Rose
Moses has been a revelation since being deployed as a right wing-back by Conte. Tottenham and England left-back Rose will examine his defensive capabilities, but is likely to be equally tested facing his own goal. Moses’s overlapping runs have been a feature of Chelsea’s recent displays.
Dele Alli vs N’Golo Kanté
Attacking midfielder Alli is a key creative player for Tottenham. He has picked up where he left off last season, and is rumoured to have caught the eye of Spanish giants Real Madrid. Alli is in a rich vein of form, with five goals in his past three games. He will need to be at his best to escape the shackles of the energetic Kanté. Since moving from champions Leicester in the summer, Kanté has been ever-present in Chelsea’s midfield.
Harry Kane vs Gary Cahill
Spurs will depend largely on Kane to disrupt Chelsea’s dependable back three. The Blues have conceded just one goal in their past six away games using that system. Nonetheless, Pochettino will trust Kane to deliver on Wednesday. He has eight goals in his past nine games and is the man for the big occasion – his averages a goal per game in his past 17 London derbies. Kane is likely to target England teammate Cahill, who is arguably the leader of Chelsea’s defence.