It’s tempting to frame this weekend’s all-London affair around Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane, the battle of the failing hitmen, writes Stephen Tudor.
After all, each were the leading goalscorers of their respective leagues last season with the Belgian averaging a goal every 120 minutes in Serie A and the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner notching every 134 minutes. In 2021/22 that has widened considerably for the struggling Chelsea ace to 183 minutes, while Kane’s decline has been well documented, finding the target only four times to date. By this stage last term, Tottenham’s totem had additionally assisted 11 times. That has subsequently shrunk to just the single assist.
It seems logical therefore to focus our Premier League betting gaze on this pair given this marquee clash features two of the most clinical finishers in world football, neither of whom particularly want to be at their clubs right now. We could dress it up differently but really that’s what it boils down to.
Furthermore, both are struggling to implement their natural game into their team’s system, with Kane’s misalliance almost feeling like its through choice. In the opening weeks of this campaign, he barely inhabited the box or even willingly led the line, far too often dropping deep to little effect.
As for Lukaku, as evidenced in Chelsea’s unadventurous loss to Manchester City last weekend, he spends his time pointing to where he wants his team-mates to lay it off, only for them to pass it elsewhere, adhering to Thomas Tuchel’s instructions.
So, with all this in mind, it felt necessary to make this about a usually prolific duo, only then we recalled the three previous meetings between these sides in recent months. Meetings where it wasn’t about Lukaku or Kane at all.
2️⃣ ballers who spearhead the attack of their respective teams! ????
— Star Sports Football (@StarFootball) January 20, 2022
When Chelsea outmaneuvered Spurs in North London back in September, comfortably winning 3-0 courtesy of a superb second-half performance, Lukaku looked bright and fairly dangerous but missed his chances. Kane meanwhile appeared to be lost in his own head, unproductive throughout. More recently, as the London giants faced up in two Carabao Cup semi-finals, both flailed, with the Blues striker spurning opportunities while Kane was all-but-anonymous apart from a disallowed goal in the second leg.
What did define these fixtures however were defenders and control, aspects that will no doubt influence the result again on Sunday. And likely again the traditional headline-makers will take a back seat.
Spurs have scored only twice in their last five visits to Stamford Bridge. Select ‘no’ at -112 to both teams scoring at the weekend.
The control came exclusively from Chelsea and indeed it’s a surprise to learn their average possession across those three games was just 60%. To the naked eye it appeared to be far greater. Tuchel’s men bossed proceedings back in the autumn and once more to secure a route to Wembley, and did so in a commanding fashion each time, only finding trouble when their own concentration levels dipped.
The bare facts of those three encounters are that Chelsea didn’t concede once and attempted nearly twice as many shots – 52 to 28 – on the opposition goal. If we’re being particularly harsh, across most of the 270 minutes, Tottenham looked and played like underdogs against a fellow top six side.
As for defenders, Antonio Rudiger scored twice overall with Thiago Silva bagging another and clearly this is a match-up of personnel that brings centre-backs to the fore. Two of Chelsea’s goals came from set-pieces and it’s noteworthy too that on four different occasions already this season Spurs have conceded to the Blues after being architects of their own demise, either via individual mishap or individual misfortune.
Defenders tending to get on the score-sheet in this fixture is a pertinent point considering that 31% of Chelsea’s league goals this term have come from the back. Only Davinson Sanchez and full-back Sergio Reguilon have chipped in for Spurs by way of comparison.
Marcos Alonso has troubled Spurs twice-over this season, forcing Lloris into good saves. The Spaniard is +500 to score anytime.
It’s pertinent also because this weekend’s hosts could put together a very decent rear-guard from their absentees, with goalkeeper Mendy, Christensen, Chilwell, James and the vastly under-rated Chalobah all unavailable. Concerning the visitors, they are without Son while Eric Dier is a doubt with a muscular strain.
Antonio Rudiger's last 5 goals for Chelsea have come against two teams..
⚽ vs Tottenham
⚽ vs Leicester
⚽ vs Tottenham
⚽ vs Leicester
⚽ vs Leicester
— SportyBet (@SportyBet) January 12, 2022
Missing as well will likely be a good deal of creativity in midfield and this has been one of Tottenham’s key issues for some time. Earlier this season such plodding predictability led to a damning stat that had them go a full four hours without testing an opposition keeper and though there are at least signs of this being addressed under Antonio Conte it’s difficult to imagine the odd foray by Hojbjerg or Skipp overly concerning Kante and co. So it falls on Kane to do the damage. And presently he can’t.
More so, should Spurs find themselves ahead, the chances of them holding onto the lead are slim. Bar two 1-0 reverses to Manchester City, Tuchel’s side have gone behind only four times in 2021/22. They went on to win two of them and draw the others.
Should the home side go in front meanwhile, don’t anticipate a comeback. Tottenham have only scored once all season beyond the 80th minute. For all of Tottenham’s woes they have generally been hard to break down now since late October. Another routine victory awaits Chelsea but it will unlikely be a high-scoring affair and a 2-0 home win at +650 feels about right.