By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in game of the week, with both sides looking to bounce back from weekend defeat
- Ole Gunner Solskjaer takes his unbeaten Premier League streak to Crystal Palace
- Liverpool host Watford at Anfield looking to avoid a fourth league draw in five games
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur meet at Stamford Bridge in game of the week, with both London sides looking to bounce back after respective defeats.
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Game of the week: Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur (Wednesday, 20:00)
Niall: After a disappointing and controversial end to the Carabao Cup final, Chelsea return to Premier League action in a crucial game against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The Blues put in a positive performance at Wembley on Sunday, but in the end it was overshadowed by the Kepa Arrizabalaga saga.
The Chelsea goalkeeper refused to go off when Maurizio Sarri called for his substitution and whether it was a misunderstanding or something more, it certainly was not a good look. Chelsea would go on to lose the following shootout and miss out on a domestic trophy and a much needed confidence boost.
It will be interesting to see if the Spanish goalkeeper lines up against Tottenham on Wednesday or whether Sarri will decide to drop his number one. Either way, Chelsea have to respond positively to their cup final woes as they can not afford dropped points in the race for the top four.
Spurs have some responding to do of their own. After suffering a 2-1 defeat away at Burnley on Saturday, the Lilly Whites sit six points off leaders Liverpool and are still within an outside chance of claiming the Premier League crown. They will need to win on Wednesday though or their title hopes will almost certainly be ended – again.
It was Spurs who set the blueprint on how to effectively get at Chelsea in the reverse fixture as they pressed Jorginho and went straight at the Chelsea defence, focusing on their left hand side. If they can successfully do that again then it will be a long night for the Blues. At home Chelsea are much better though, and this should be a closer encounter than the one at Wembley. It is just a question of how much the cup final will affect them.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Neil: Having been given a second chance to fight their way back into the title picture after Liverpool’s recent draws, Spurs surely wasted their chance become a legitimate contender after their Lancashire loss at the weekend. With a chance to rectify matters – at least in terms of results – a trip to Chelsea could offer the Lilywhites respite at a stadium that in recent meetings has been a fruitful playground for Mauricio Pochettino‘ s men.
With Chelsea still mired in a struggle of player and indeed managerial power in west London, a derby against Spurs gives the Blues the same exact opportunity to erase what has been a difficult few weeks in the Kings’ Road for the hosts.
To be fair to the Blues, their tactic of playing normal time without a recognized centre-forward almost paid off, as Chelsea came more and more into the Carabao Cup final, before again resulting in forlorn defeat.
Tottenham were boosted by the early return of Harry Kane on the weekend, but in truth England’s Golden Boot winner of last summer looked far short of match fitness. Could he however, be a vital player here?
Chelsea have undoubtedly got issues off the field, but still have the players to win games especially on home turf. The visitors for me will still be smarting from their Turf Moor loss and as such, I am backing a home win.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Niall’s one to watch: Liverpool vs Watford (Wednesday, 20:00)
With only one point separating Manchester City and Liverpool, the title race is heating up and the Reds continue their bid when they welcome an in form Watford to Anfield on Wednesday. With their rivals hosting West Ham United at the same time, this game-week could be one of the most crucial to the title race of the season. Neither side can afford to lose ground on their rival, and with Tottenham still within touching distance they will be keen to keep it just a two-horse race.
After a goalless affair at Old Trafford on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s men have drawn four of their last five in all competitions with the sole win coming at home to Bournemouth. The league-leaders have had a downturn in form over the New Year period, but the positive is that they have not been losing.
Watford have gone through the entire month so far unbeaten and have only lost one in their last 11 matches, that coming against Spurs at the end of last month. Javi Gracia’s side sit seventh and could confirm a spot in the Europa League if they continue this form for the rest of the season.
The Hornets have not beaten Liverpool since 2015 though, and their record against the top six this season has not been great. The Reds might not be in the best form at the moment, but their ability to avoid defeat when not at their best is a quality you look for in Champions. This will not be an easy match, but the odds are in favour of a Liverpool victory to end February.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Watford
Neil’s one to watch: Crystal Palace vs Manchester United (Wednesday, 20:00)
Having hammered the bed nail into the tenure of Claude Puel at Leicester City on Saturday evening, Crystal Palace welcome the Red Devils to south London in midweek, with Ole Gunner Solskjaer still to taste a league defeat since the beginning of his stewardship at Manchester United.
The Eagles looked a revitalised unit against the skittish Foxes, in no thanks to the impact that has been made by Michy Batshuayi since his loan move to Selhurst Park. With less reliance on Wilfried Zaha for the time being, Roy Hodgson‘s men now have a front man to rely on – even if his time in the English top flight as been far from prolific for the Belgian.
United’s hugely creditable performance against a edgy Liverpool on Sunday came at a cost and we may see the evidence of that here. With a possible nine players set to miss out against their London hosts, Solskjaer’s men will be stretched to breaking point in the capital.
That, added to the host’s newly heralded attacking prowess could spell trouble for Paul Pogba and co. here. With no Anthony Martial, Nemanja Matic and very likely Marcus Rashford, United will be blunted across the park.
With such a heavy injury burden to bare, I feel this will the end of United’s unbeaten run since the departure of Jose Mourinho, but I do expect United to at least put up a real fight, even if it may prove to be in vain.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-1 Manchester United
Premier League Gameweek 28 game of the week sees Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge, on Wednesday evening
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