Tottenham Hotspur-Chelsea Preview

A London derby with plenty at stake takes place Saturday at Stamford Bridge, where one-time Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho makes the short trek south with his current club, Tottenham Hotspur.

Mourinho has been on the visitors’ side of the touchline previously, having absorbed three losses in four contests at Stamford Bridge without a victory while in charge of Manchester United. That included a blow-up during the 2017-18 season when then-Chelsea assistant Marco Ianni celebrated a late equaliser close to the United bench, prompting Mourinho to give chase before security intervened.

A three-time Premier League winner with Chelsea, there are no title hopes at stake for either side given Liverpool are champions-elect, but both the Pensioners and Lilywhites are vying for either the final two or the last of the four Champions League spots pending Manchester City’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport for the two-year ban from European competition handed down by UEFA last Friday.

Spurs (11-7-8) are one point behind Chelsea for fourth in the table, and both sides are well behind the two-time champions, who are in second place. All three squads are currently in Europe’s top club competition in the knockout round, though Tottenham Hotspur come to the Bridge on the heels of a 1-0 home loss Wednesday to Red Bull Leipzig.

Ben Davies tripped Konrad Laimer early in the second half and Timo Werner made Spurs play by converting the penalty on 58 minutes for a critical away goal. The result, which ended a seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions (5-2-0), left Spurs with a difficult task in a fortnight when they visit Saxony for the second leg in their bid for a second consecutive Champions League final.

«1-0 is 1-0, it’s not 10-0, the result is open, it’s as simple as that,» said a surprisingly upbeat Mourinho considering his squad was second-best for most of the match. «We wouldn’t be the first team to lose a game at home 1-0 and to win the tie away. Why shouldn’t we believe?

«You can tell me we had luck in some moments, I disagree. We had a great goalkeeper who made two magnificent saves and that is not luck, that is an amazing goalkeeper. Their goalkeeper also made a couple of fantastic saves. We had our chances and we tried everything we could.»

Finding goals for the return encounter and this contest could prove troublesome for Spurs, who are without their top two scorers in talisman Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, both injured. Mourinho opted for a 4-4-2 look versus Leipzig, though Lucas Moura and Dele Alli failed to create many clear-cut chances.

In fact, the best chance of the match fell to Giovani Lo Celso, whose potential equaliser on a 30-yard free kick was touched onto the post by keeper Peter Gulasci.

This match starts a run of four league contests for Tottenham against clubs who are part of an eight-side scrum separated by seven points in the table for at least three European spots based on league finish. It is a run that also includes Mourinho’s first trip back to Old Trafford since being sacked in December 2018.

Chelsea’s Champions League campaign resumes next week at home versus German side Bayern Munich, but they are also looking to rebound from a disheartening home loss – a 2-0 reversal to Manchester United at home Monday.

Blues boss Frank Lampard could feel aggrieved at a series of VAR calls that went against his club, most notably United defender Harry Maguire avoiding a red card when his cleat caught striker Michy Batshuayi in the groin area after he had tumbled to the pitch. The bigger call, though, was an equaliser by Kurt Zouma being chalked off after video replays saw a foul on Cesar Azpilicueta.

The third call was a more straightforward one, with Olivier Giroud’s late marker wiped off for offsides. Yet even with those calls against them, United were more clinical in their finishing as both Anthony Martial and Maguire scored on either side of halftime on a pair of headers.

«After two months not playing, I felt very good on the pitch with a lot of energy and determination,» said Giroud to Chelsea’s official website after his first league minutes since Nov. 30. ‘I scored a nice goal from a nice cross and I just tried to stay behind [Harry] Maguire but I was half a foot offside.

«It’s very frustrating because it could have changed the game but obviously we made two mistakes on two goals and we need to improve on that.»

Giroud likely will be in a reserve role again as first-choice striker Tammy Abraham should be available after being held out Monday to continue recovering from a niggling ankle injury. Also unsettled for a third straight match for Lampard is his goalkeeper.

He gave Willy Caballero a second consecutive start between the sticks, and the Argentina international again failed to distinguish himself by conceding twice for the second straight match. It also contributed to Chelsea’s continued inconsistent form at home – the Pensioners have just 18 points from their 13 matches at Stamford Bridge, going 5-3-5.

While Abrham is set to return, Christian Pulisic is likely to miss an eighth straight contest with a muscle injury.

Chelsea are seeking their first league double over Spurs in 14 seasons, winning the reverse fixture 2-0 in December on a first-half brace by Willian. Stamford Bridge remains a house of horrors for Tottenham, whose lone win in 28 visits across all competitions in the Premier League era (1-9-18) was a 3-1 victory in April 2018.