Capital punishment for Chelsea and Tottenham

By Shaun Cronin, Sports reporter

There are so many sub-plots surrounding today’s early kick-off between Chelsea and Tottenham that you’d be wondering are you preparing to read a Stephen King novel rather then watching a game a game of Premier League football.

Is Harry leaving in the summer? Will Roberto Di Matteo stay on? Are John Terry and the senior players running Chelsea? Have the Spurs players been affected by the Fabrice Muamba incident? Can we expect a clear-out at Stamford Bridge?

One thing is for sure fourth spot is up for grabs and with Tottenham’s recent downturn in form just five points separate the sides going into the contest.

It would be incorrect to say that a Champions League spot is on offer for fourth place this season with Chelsea still fighting on the European front, this means if the Blues were to win the Champions League and finish outside the top-four they would take the final place in Europe’s premier club competition and not the side who finished fourth.

You can be pretty sure that the mandate given to Di Matteo when he took over was not to leave it to chance and finish in the top four.

Despite the loss at Man City on Wednesday things have been going well for the Italian since he took charge following the sacking of Andre Villas Boas with wins over Stoke, Napoli in that incredible game and Leicester in the FA Cup which even saw Fernando Torres hit the back of the net after over a day in match time without a goal.

For Redknapp it would be a shame if his side were to miss out on the Champions League given the swashbuckling style they have brought to the Premier League this season but rumours surrounding the manager’s future haven’t helped with three successive losses and followed by disappointing draw with Stoke last time out, which has seen them drop out of the Premier League’s top three for the first time since November.

However, speaking during the week Harry was quick to dismiss his link with the England job had adversely affected his players.

“They wouldn't lose any sleep over that. That's football. Footballers play the game, they come in every day and train. Someone else walks in here tomorrow the king is dead long live the king!

“They don't worry. They don't think 'Harry is going to England' or 'he is going to go somewhere else'. I have been around football all my life and it doesn't happen.”

There can be no doubt however that Harry will be looking to turn around Spurs’ frankly dire record at Stamford Bridge having not won there since 1990.

Chelsea welcome back captain John Terry to the fold after he missed out in midweek as he remains unable to play twice in a week as he is still recovering from a calf injury.

Branislav Ivanovic could be one that misses out with a thigh injury picked up at Eastlands, but on the plus side Gary Cahill has slipped in seamlessly following his January move from Bolton.

It will it be interesting to see what role Torres has in the game, he has been sharp of late and the Tottenham defence has looked shaky so will he be paired with Drogba or will he yet again be used as a sub?

It has to be said that Redknapp has assembled one of the best midfield units in the Premier League but he will be without Aaron Lennon who has been dogged by hamstring troubles, this could see either Jermain Defoe or Louis Saha come in up front along side Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart who has returned to form move to the right-hand side of midfield.

An interesting stat heading into the game is that out of four games this season Chelsea have played against London clubs the Blues have only picked up two points so the capital hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for them.

On the flip side of this, Spurs have been dire in games involving the current top five this campaign picking up just four points from seven games and losing five times, this is a stat that has to change if they are ever to make that so called ‘next step’.

Looking at the contest you would think that Chelsea with home advantage should have the edge and Tottenham have lacked a bit of spark recently.

John Terry returning for the Blues is a big plus as his presence alone lifts the side he leads onto the pitch.

For Spurs it's essential that their big players like Bale, van der Vaart, Modric and Parker stand up and be counted as you feel that’s where they will have an edge.

If Tottenham are come out on top they will need to exploit their strengths in the wide areas and deliver quick early ball to their front two against an aging Chelsea back four.

Set pieces could have a big say on who comes out also as Chelsea are probably the more physical of the two sides, so Spurs beware because the men in blue will be sending every big man forward.

It’s a fascinating game in store and should Spurs win you can all but write off Chelsea’s chance for that coveted fourth spot but if the Blues come out on top then its game on in the race for fourth place.

Prediction: I feel Chelsea will be able to shut down Spurs in key areas effectively. Chelsea 2 Tottenham 1.

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