A big London derby awaits Chelsea this weekend as they make the 14-mile trip north to face Tottenham Hotspur in a crunch game for both sides early on in the Premier League season.
The Blues will be aiming to continue their unbeaten start to 2021/22 while for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, it’s an attempt to bounce back from their heavy defeat to Crystal Palace last time out in the league.
Only one point separates the two sides in the table and Spurs could go above Chelsea in the standings should they pick up a win on their home turf this weekend. For the Blues, it could be another marker laid down for their league title ambitions this season
Chelsea will be without Christian Pulisic on Sunday afternoon but he is the only injury absentee as N’golo Kante has returned to full fitness ahead of the match, having missed the last two with an ankle problem
Thomas Tuchel therefore has selection dilemmas almost all over the pitch as he has a 99 per cent fully-fit squad.
But how do we think he should send his side out? We asked our Blues writers Sam inkersole and Daniel Childs to give their preferred starting XI’s for the game.
Chelsea haven’t been at their best in their past two matches but have grinded out the wins. That hasn’t come as a surprise to Thomas Tuchel after the long summer for some of his players and the immediate start to the new league season, adding in an international break to the mix already to boot.
The German likes to tinker with his side and I’m expecting him to do so again but not too much from the midweek win over Zenit in the Champions League.
N’Golo Kante is fully fit and ready for a return but, for me, shouldn’t start on Sunday. There is the mantra that “if N’Golo is fit, N’Golo starts” and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he did, I just think that Tuchel needs to protect him ahead of the trip to Man City next weekend. A substitute appearance is more likely for the Frenchman.
Plus, to would be harsh to drop Mateo Kovacic on current form.
The only other change I’d make would be drafting in Kai Havertz for Hakim Ziyech in the front three. Chelsea looked much betetr when the German emerged off the subs bench in midweek as Ziyech was once again frustrating.
For the rest of the team, I think it picks itself currently. You could argue for Ben Chilwell over Marcos Alonso at left wing-back but Alonso always plays well against Spurs. He’ll probably score this weekend.
Sam’s team: Mendy; James; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Alonso; Jorginho, Kovacic; Havertz, Mount, Lukaku.
After the last two performances, even if Romelu Lukaku’s goals got Chelsea over the line there needs to be an increase in creativity and return to the controlled flow of Thomas Tuchel’s best performances at the club.
If N’Golo Kante is fully back fit he will start alongside Jorginho, which may appear harsh on Mateo Kovacic who has been in form, but Kante has time and again proved the be the difference in Chelsea’s most important games and Tuchel will need his energy to stifle a hostile Spurs crowd.
Ben Chilwell got his first competitive minutes of the season against Zenit and it feels like a good point to bring him back in having seen Alonso’s level of performance slightly dip. Yes, Alonso has a history of scoring against Spurs but at some point, the English international needs to come in.
As Chelsea struggled to break down Zenit’s deep defence, we missed the increased speed and energy of Chilwell who can make diagonal runs to test a Spurs defence who will likely be weakened with several injuries.
Both wingbacks are vital to offer width and increased numbers to Chelsea’s attack to create a 3-2-5 in attack rather than the usual 3-4-3 shape.
Tuchel has switched around the front trio alongside Lukaku but I would still like to see Mason Mount and Kai Havertz start again behind the in-form Belgian as we only got to see the trio start together against Arsenal and Liverpool before the international break.
I feel like the left side of Spurs defence is an area that can provide joy for the Blues, especially with Havertz and Lukaku favouring that right channel which appears to be an area of weakness in Nuno Espírito Santo’s structure
I wouldn’t mind seeing Thiago Silva back in Chelsea’s defence. He is already in the Premier League 2021/22 Top five with six blocked shots despite only making his first start of the season against Aston Villa last Saturday.
Daniel’s Starting XI: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Rudiger, James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell, Mount, Havertz, Lukaku