We're now getting to that stage of the season where every game... every point... and every goal... is critical. As axiomatic as that may sound, there is no better way to describe this game than as one that could either restore some hope of a successful season - for either Chelsea or Spurs - or continue what has been a relatively miserable last month.
Chelsea welcome their London rivals to Stamford Bridge at a time when both clubs are struggling to find both form and consistency, although the Blues' "new manager" syndrome gave them a temporary boost in recent weeks. After sacking misfiring boss Andre Villas-Boas and installing his former assistant, Roberto Di Matteo, in his place, Chelsea went on a much-needed four-game winning streak; this included a superb and morale-raising 4-1 demolition of Italian club Napoli, in the second leg of a Champions League tie. The four-game streak also included a 5-2 win over Championship side Leicester City but the fact that troubled Spanish striker Fernando Torres scored twice in that game was the bigger positive. It seemed like the Fates were finally beginning to shine on the Bridge. Unfortunately, the mid-week defeat to Manchester City (Chelsea lost 1-2, despite taking the lead) would certainly have put any thoughts of miraculous comebacks on hold.
The Blues have been very inconsistent this season and although they have won four of their last six games, it is their last five results in league games that is cause for concern. Di Matteo was without key defender and club captain John Terry for the trip to the Etihad Stadium and it looks likely the Englishman will remain unavailable, for now. In addition, the Italian boss is also without another key defender in Branislav Ivanovic, as well as young Spaniard, Oriel Romeu. Expect Di Matteo to make very few changes to his first-team... the defeat to City aside, this is probably the best Chelsea have played in a long time. The big question, of course, is if Torres will be allowed to retain his position or Drogba will be drafted in. The Spanish striker huffed and puffed against City last time out and while he could not score, did put himself about a little bit. Unfortunately, Di Matteo has not the luxury of giving Torres a lengthy run in the side (indeed, thanks to the club's poor performances that has been the case all season) so the Ivorian should be back as a more direct goal scoring threat, particularly in front of home fans.
The visitors for Saturday's game have had, in recent times, as difficult a time as their hosts. Tottenham looked in so commanding a position even as recently as a few months ago that they were being talked of as title challengers to the Manchester clubs. Since then, they have, as manager Harry Redknapp admitted, the club has lost its way a little bit. Spurs will come into this game knowing they absolutely have to win to retain any sort of hold over third position. Unfortunately for them, they are on an even worse run of results than Chelsea. Spurs have only won once in their last six games and have not won in their last four. The poor run includes that stunning capitulation (2-5) to Arsenal and a 1-3 home defeat to United. If all this were not enough bad news for Spurs fans, then, according to the latest information from the premierleague.com, leading goal scorer Emmanual Adebayor will not play.
The match will be available live on FOXSoccer.tv in the US.
Chelsea 2 - Spurs 1
There is so much at stake for both sides that neither can afford to lose. This should translate into a cagey, if not downright boring start, which is likely to be more physical than aesthetically pleasing. In addition, the grim spectre of the Fabrice Muamba incident will certainly be weighing on the minds of the players (certainly some of the Spurs players, who were visibly upset when the young Englishman collapsed in their last game). However, Chelsea have had a marginally better run of form lately and there should still be the residual effects of the "new manager" syndrome which, coupled with home support, should be enough to eke out a win.
Expect Drogba and Bale to be the men to look out for.