Chelsea v Tottenham: Premier League - live! | Premier League

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The corner picks out Koulibaly on the far side of the box and … please do not adjust your sets … he laces across a volley that sends the ball searing into the net! A centre-back! That is a gloooorious finish, and a lead well-earned too!

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Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy; Silva, Koulibaly, Cucuerella; James, Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek; Mount, Sterling, Havertz. Subs: Kepa, Pulisic, Chalobah, Broja, Ziyech, Gallagher, Hudson-Odoi, Chilwell.

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Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-3): Lloris; Romero, Dier, Davies; Royal, Bentancur, Hojbjerg, Sessegnon; Kulusevski, Kane, Son. Subs: Forster, Doherty, Sanchez, Gil, Perisic, Richarlison, Moura, Tanganga, Bissouma.

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Referee: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe)

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On 16 December 2007, Arsenal played Chelsea and Manchester United visited Anfield, a strange quirk of the fixture calendar magically allowing Sky to keep eyeballs on their channel for near enough an entire day. This uncanny coincidence ceased after a bit and so much the better – but in a way, it seems relevant this afternoon.

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Chelsea v Spurs is one of the great fixtures of English football, oozing animus and history. And because both sides are now pretty good, it comes freighted with greater tension, making a steaming Saturday afternoon in August entirely the wrong place for it. It needs howling wind, driving rain and soul-curdling cold, breath visible in the night air and grown adults performing the sort of ludicrous antics to which sun and summer are unconducive.

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But because we’re back to playing matches at random, where it belongs is where it is, and this should be an absolute belter. Just a few months ago, things looked sketchy for Chelsea, the provenance of Roman Abramovich’s money – and the glory it bought – finally catching up with them, their future as a force apparently imperilled. Except Todd Boehly and mates have, so far, made good on their promises, tossing cash about like confetti and strengthening a squad that was already pretty handy. Whether it’s good enough to contest the league title remains to be seen – this afternoon will tell us a bit about that – but it’s good enough to beat any team on any day, a decent spot in which to be.

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Spurs, meanwhile, have also been taken over – but by a manager, not a consortium. Antonio Conte read his situation and played his hand perfectly: a manager of his pedigree, having done the work he’d done, decides to leave because the board won’t back him? The job becomes toxic, players ask to leave and the club is worth less – not what Daniel Levy wants, and definitely not what Joe Lewis wants. So they were forced to invest and – almost against their better judgment – now have a team that looks ready to do something. It’s an absolutely ridiculous state of affairs, but here we are.

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Though both sides are settling and have managers disinclined to take risks, the chances of an expansive encounter are slim. But the intensity of both, coupled with the mutual antipathy in the stands, means that they should treat us to a compelling afternoon nevertheless – however wrong it feels.

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Kick-off: 4.30pm BST

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Key events

24 min Loftus-Cheek advances down the right and crosses, but with Mount poised, Romeros extends a leg in desperation and sees the ball away.

22 min Sessegnon races onto a long ball over the top. I think he’s offside, but he takes it well and his second touch moves him from left-side to central with a chance of shooting. He looks to go across Mendy, who saves with his legs, then the flag goes up.

22 min Spurs haven’t done much in the last 15 minutes or so – they’re losing the midfield numbers game, and though Chelsea don’t, as I said, look all that cohesive, pressure told.

WHAT A GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Tottenham (Koulibaly 20)

The corner picks out Koulibaly on the far side of the box and … please do not adjust your sets … he laces across a volley that sends the ball searing into the net! A centre-back! That is a gloooorious finish, and a lead well-earned too!

19 min Now this is more like it, Chelsea advancing down the right and Sterling crossing for Havertz, who sweeps towards the far corner … but Lloris hurls himself right, to tip away.

18 min Loftus-Cheek tries a cross that’s cleared but straight to Koulibaly, who wellies a shot over the bart.

17 min Havertz is spending a lot of time out on the right. I’m not certain who that’s meant to help, because Chelsea need him more involved than this.

15 min I said earlier that both sides look a bit slow in midfield, but Mount dropping in is helping Chelsea control possession. And, as I type that, a fortunate bounce as he closes down Bentancur takes Kante goalwards, so he flings himself into a dig … that Dier does well to block.

14 min Chelsea are now up at 66% possession, though they’ve not done loads with it. I doubt Spurs mind either – I daresay they’ll be hoping to score on the counter.

14 min But his delivery is poor, and in amongst it, there’s an offside.

13 min It’s Chelsea in the ascendancy now, dominating territory without doing much else. Cucurella has a cross cleared, then Sessegnon applies shin to leg of Loftus-Cheek, and James is out on the free-kick.

11 min Better from Chelsea, Jorginho spreading play right, but James’ cross is a poor one and Spurs get the ball away.

9 min Cucurella finds himself robbed by the sliding Romero, barrelling through him and introducing studs to knee with oodles of plausible deniability.

8 min Kante picks up a poor pass from Hojbjerg, but his ball out wide is the wrong side of Havertz. Chelsea, though, keep at it, getting it into the box as Cucurella follows up … pumping a shot into the nearest body.

7 min Spurs look really confident; sorry Spurs fans! Chelsea, meanwhile, look more like they’re making it up as they go along.

6 min Spurs have started the better, quicker to second balls and more coherent moving forward.

4 min Again, Spurs pick it up in midfield and Kane finds Son, but his shot is blocked. His team. though, maintain pressure, Kane dinking a decent pass over the top for Royal, but on the stretch, his cross is easily collected by Mendy.

4 min …but Son curls it behind.

2 min Spurs burgle the ball in midfield but Son can’t find a decent passing lane when fed by Kulusevski. No matter, Kane wins a free-kick down the right, and this is a decent chance to get ball into the box…

1 min Hmmm, it looks to me like Chelsea are playing a back four, but let’s see. What’s definitely the case is that Kai Havertz has had a severe haircut and Ruben Loftus-Cheek is on the right of midfield. So, if it’s back three, James will be in it not Cucurella.

1 min And away we go!

“I imagine Cucurella will be in the back thee with Koulibaly and Silva,” says Tim Baker. “James and RLC wing-backs. The big-haired Spaniard often filled that role with distinction for Brighton. If Tuchel gives him the freedom that Potter did, expect him to still get forward when possible.”

Yup, I’d agree with that.

Here come the teams!

Ah, he’s got a black tee on underneath. By way of consolation, check out these lads.

jorge
Arthur Jorge (L) sits alongside his deputy, Denis Troch, during a match between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain in 1998. Photograph: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

Todd Boehly is wearing a blue shirt. In these temperatures, that’s a bold bold call.

camacho
Photograph: Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/EPA

“I love football and I quite like statistics,” emails Richard Hirst, “but the two don’t mix well. I have never tried to understand expected goals but, with all due respect, as they say, to Keshava Guha, how can you have .6 of an expected goal? Must be when the whole of the ball doesn’t cross the line!”

I dunno, I’m not a massive stats lad but I do enjoy different ways of understanding the game, and given the pros are bang into it, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I went about like it’s not a thing. xG isn’t infallible, nor especially useful for telling you about individual games, especially if you’ve watched them, but it’s not terrible at summing up a raft of action that you’ve not seen.

“Re Højbjerg v Bissouma,” tweets @andersvb like we’re discussing case law. “By all accounts, Højbjerg has proven himself a leader in the dressing room and on the pitch. Perhaps Conte is wary of upsetting that balance?”

Sure, I can see that – though he’s signed Bissouma, presumably to tax Hojbjerg’s spot. Perhaps he wants to do things gradually, but Conte doesn’t seem like a gradual kind of cat.

Tuchel tells Sky he’s playing three at the back. Loftus-Cheek will be wing-back because he thinks you need five to defend Spurs’ aggressive wing-backs – goodness me, I don’t entirely grasp that – but we don’t know on which side, so don’t know which of James and Cucurella will be in midfield.

“I agree with your assessment that Raheem Sterling is more effective out wide,” says Keshava Guha, “but I’m not sure his finishing is the reason. He’s more someone with some memorable bad misses than a consistently deficient finisher. Over his past five seasons at City, he scored 75 non-penalty goals, against an expected total of 69.6 (stats via FBRef). So if anything he’s been a slightly *above*-average finisher.”

Er, I see what you’re saying, but I’d need to know how the data was compiled before committing to it. Let’s say Sterling scored a few really difficult ones, might they elevate his xG eve if he’s missing others he should score? I also wonder if it makes a difference that, playing for City, he got loads of chances, giving him scope to score lots thereby improving his numbers, whereas if he’s feeding off scraps, perhaps he misses more. I don’t know, I’m probably talking words.

I tried to rationalise it earlier, but I’m still extremely surprised Conte is preferring Hojbjerg to Bissouma. I can’t see a single aspect of the former’s game that’s superior to the latter’s, and also don’t get why you’d not want to settle new players a-sap.

“THAT game.” begins Matt Dony. “He was often (and deservedly) disliked, but this fixture should ALWAYS be refereed by Mark Clattenburg. His finest hour.”

Love Clattz. The ref we all know we’d be.

It’s a funny thing with Chelsea, really. Thomas Tuchel did brilliantly to win the Gazprom having come in midway through the season, but there wasn’t loads of discernible improvement last term. With the players they have, it’s hard to see them getting close to the top two, and given what they’re spending, they’ll be wanting to.

Yup, Forest have beaten West Ham 1-0 – and that’s a colossal win. They were helped by a dreadful Declan Rice penalty, but they won’t care about that.

I guess what Chelsea have is three attackers capable of improvisational brilliance. I’m not sure they’ve the kind of blend that’ll make them as irresistible as Son-Kulusevski-Kane can be and they’re not grooved yet either, but they’ve got enough to nail any defence on a good day.

Chelsea, I imagine, will want their front three coming at Spurs from unusual areas. They don’t have a proper striker, so will be relying on intelligent movement and passes to open things up.

Looking at the line-ups, I kind of fancy Spurs. Both sides are a bit slow in midfield – or have one slow midfielder – but I think Spurs have the greater dynamism in attack. You can easily see them getting in behind Chelsea’s wing-backs, while Chelsea don’t really have players quick enough to manage that.

At the City Ground, Nottingham Forest lead West Ham 1-0 with, for extra mirth, Dean Henderson playing a blinder. Catch the end of that with Rob Smyth, here:

Unusually for a fixture with so much history, its greatest iteration came in recent times. Oh my days this was glorious; enjoy!

As for Spurs, they’re unchanged following last weekend’s tousing of Southampton. That means Antonio Conte’s principal summer acquisitions – Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissouma and Richarlison – are once again on the bench. I’d be interested to know why Conte has done that – is he asserting his authority and telling players that places need to be won? Or is he saying the new lads don’t know what he wants from them yet; that the old ones are better?

Below, I also gave Chelsea’s formation at 3-4-3, but 3-4-2-1 might be more accurate. I’m not quite sure why you’d want Raheem Sterling through the middle – his movement is excellent but his finishing not so much. I guess he might be able to play off Kai Havertz, but the balance of the front three doesn’t look write to me.

Two changes for Chelsea, who bring in Marc Cucurella for a home debut, along with Ruben Loftus-Cheek; Cesar Azpilicueta and Ben Chilwell drop out. My instinct is that Reece James with play on the right of midfield with Cucurella at left-centre-back and Loftus-Cheek on the left of midfield, but they might all shift round one, with James at the back, Cucurella on the left and Loftus-Cheek on the right.

Teams!

Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy; Silva, Koulibaly, Cucuerella; James, Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek; Mount, Sterling, Havertz. Subs: Kepa, Pulisic, Chalobah, Broja, Ziyech, Gallagher, Hudson-Odoi, Chilwell.

Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-3): Lloris; Romero, Dier, Davies; Royal, Bentancur, Hojbjerg, Sessegnon; Kulusevski, Kane, Son. Subs: Forster, Doherty, Sanchez, Gil, Perisic, Richarlison, Moura, Tanganga, Bissouma.

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe)

Preamble

On 16 December 2007, Arsenal played Chelsea and Manchester United visited Anfield, a strange quirk of the fixture calendar magically allowing Sky to keep eyeballs on their channel for near enough an entire day. This uncanny coincidence ceased after a bit and so much the better – but in a way, it seems relevant this afternoon.

Chelsea v Spurs is one of the great fixtures of English football, oozing animus and history. And because both sides are now pretty good, it comes freighted with greater tension, making a steaming Saturday afternoon in August entirely the wrong place for it. It needs howling wind, driving rain and soul-curdling cold, breath visible in the night air and grown adults performing the sort of ludicrous antics to which sun and summer are unconducive.

But because we’re back to playing matches at random, where it belongs is where it is, and this should be an absolute belter. Just a few months ago, things looked sketchy for Chelsea, the provenance of Roman Abramovich’s money – and the glory it bought – finally catching up with them, their future as a force apparently imperilled. Except Todd Boehly and mates have, so far, made good on their promises, tossing cash about like confetti and strengthening a squad that was already pretty handy. Whether it’s good enough to contest the league title remains to be seen – this afternoon will tell us a bit about that – but it’s good enough to beat any team on any day, a decent spot in which to be.

Spurs, meanwhile, have also been taken over – but by a manager, not a consortium. Antonio Conte read his situation and played his hand perfectly: a manager of his pedigree, having done the work he’d done, decides to leave because the board won’t back him? The job becomes toxic, players ask to leave and the club is worth less – not what Daniel Levy wants, and definitely not what Joe Lewis wants. So they were forced to invest and – almost against their better judgment – now have a team that looks ready to do something. It’s an absolutely ridiculous state of affairs, but here we are.

Though both sides are settling and have managers disinclined to take risks, the chances of an expansive encounter are slim. But the intensity of both, coupled with the mutual antipathy in the stands, means that they should treat us to a compelling afternoon nevertheless – however wrong it feels.

Kick-off: 4.30pm BST

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