LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 25 – Tottenham Hotspur face a major test of nerve on Saturday when they return to Stamford Bridge, scene of the 2-2 draw with Chelsea that ended last season’s title challenge.
Spurs had nine players booked and Mousa Dembele was hit with a six-game ban for gouging Diego Costa’s eye in a stormy May 2 encounter that delivered the Premier League crown to Leicester City.
Mauricio Pochetttino’s side are licking their wounds once again, having been dumped out of the Champions League by Monaco, but goalkeeper Hugo Lloris says they will relish the trip to Chelsea.
“I said the same after we lost against (Bayer) Leverkusen at Wembley: this is the best type of game to bounce back,” said the France international following Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Monaco at the Stade Louis II.
“The only thing is to digest the frustration of this defeat and look forward.
“It’s a big disappointment, but we need to keep our chins up because it’s a big game on Saturday.”
Harry Kane struck twice late on as Spurs came from behind to beat West Ham United 3-2 at White Hart Lane on their previous league outing.
But that was Spurs’ only win in their last nine fixtures in all competitions, a run that has seen them slide to fifth in the table, four points below leaders Chelsea.
Chelsea, in stark contrast, are flying, having won their last six games without conceding a goal and will be defending an unbeaten home record against Spurs stretching back 26 years.
Centre-back Gary Cahill says it is important for the players not to get carried away.
“We’re happy with our work, but the league isn’t won now,” he told the Chelsea website.
“There’s plenty more football — it’s not even Christmas yet — so keep going, keep the foot down and keep trying to produce performances like we have been in the last few weeks.”
Should Chelsea slip up, Liverpool and Manchester City — both just a point below them — will have designs on supplanting them at the summit.
– Record-hunting Rooney –
Liverpool, who ceded top spot after drawing 0-0 at Southampton last weekend, host a Sunderland team buoyed by back-to-back wins that have lifted them off the foot of the table.
“It’s our job to show from the first second as a big group, crowd involved, that we are different — here it’s different,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told his pre-match press conference.
“Sunderland, if they win football games in the Premier League: well done, deserved, whatever. But not here.”
Like his Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte, Liverpool’s absence from European competition means Klopp has had a full week to prepare his team for their next league assignment.
But City manager Pep Guardiola will have little time to drill his players ahead of Saturday’s trip to Burnley, which follows Wednesday’s 1-1 Champions League draw at Borussia Moenchengladbach.
The result in Germany took City into the last 16, albeit as runners-up behind Barcelona, and they will now look to build on last weekend’s 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.
“Obviously it’s only two days in between for the next game, so that’s tough to fly back and be prepared, but I think mentally we need to try to be prepared,” City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne told the club website.
Arsenal, in search of a second wind, welcome Bournemouth to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Arsenal needed a late Olivier Giroud header to rescue a 1-1 draw at Manchester United last week, then saw their hopes of top spot in their Champions League group fade in a 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain.
Giroud’s goal condemned United to a third successive home draw in the league — the first time that has happened since April 1992 — but they bounced back to crush Feyenoord 4-0 in the Europa League.
United, nine points below Chelsea in sixth, face West Ham on Sunday in the first of back-to-back home games against the east London club, who return to Old Trafford in the League Cup on Wednesday.
Having netted his 248th United goal against Feyenoord, skipper Wayne Rooney will equal Bobby Charlton’s club scoring record if he scores against West Ham.
Saturday (1500 GMT unless stated)
Burnley v Man City (1230), Chelsea v Tottenham (1730), Liverpool v Sunderland, Hull v West Brom, Leicester v Middlesbrough, Swansea v Crystal Palace
Sunday (1630 GMT unless stated)
Arsenal v Bournemouth (1415), Man Utd v West Ham, Southampton v Everton, Watford v Stoke (1200)