LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 25 – Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino believes Saturday’s trip to in-form Premier League leaders Chelsea represents an ideal opportunity for his side to relaunch their season.
Tottenham have won just one of their last nine fixtures in all competitions and go into the game on the back of a Champions League exit at Monaco’s hands in mid-week.
Chelsea have stormed to the league summit after six straight wins and have not lost at home to Spurs in 26 years — a run of 29 games — but Pochettino is challenging his players to rise to the occasion.
“It’s a good challenge for us,” the Argentine said.
“They (Chelsea) are in very good form. They have a great manager that I know very well and they have great players too.
“It’s an advantage, not being involved in European competition or the cups now. They have time to train and develop their philosophy.
“They are — not only in England, but in Europe — the team most in form today.”
Given Spurs’ record at Stamford Bridge, where they last won in February 1990, they have learnt not to relish trips to west London and their last visit, on May 2, proved even more painful than usual.
Seeking a win that would have kept their Premier League title bid alive, Spurs went 2-0 up, only for Chelsea to hit back and force a 2-2 draw that sent the league crown to Leicester City.
A tempestuous London derby, dubbed ‘The Battle of Stamford Bridge’, saw nine Spurs players booked, while Mousa Dembele received a retrospective six-game ban for an eye gouge on Diego Costa.
Some of Spurs’ players wept in the changing room after and sympathy was not in short supply for a young team whose dashing football had captured the imagination over the preceding months.
There have been glimpses of last season’s Spurs since the start of the current campaign, most strikingly in their stunning 2-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in early October.
But since then their momentum has deserted them, with last weekend’s gritty 3-2 comeback win over West Ham United, secured by Harry Kane’s late brace, the only subsequent victory they have recorded.
– Spurs short in defence –
Back in May, Chelsea were drifting towards the end of a season in which their title defence had disintegrated and their manager, Jose Mourinho, had been pitched overboard before Christmas.
Six months on, they are a team transformed, having won six games without conceding a goal since Antonio Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation during the 3-0 loss at Arsenal in late September.
Conte’s frenetic touchline exhortations have become a fixture at Stamford Bridge this season, but the Italian wants his players to keep their emotions in check.
“Now it’s important to think in the present,” he said.
“Our behaviour, our attitude must always be perfect and to think only about the game.
“It’s right to put your passion, but in the right way, not in a bad way.
“It’s important to be always in the right way and to respect your players, the opponents’ players, your fans and the other fans.”
Conte has named the same team for the last five games and is not expected to change tack against Tottenham.
Captain John Terry, who has had to make do with a watching brief in recent weeks, has been ruled out with a buttock injury, while John Mikel Obi will miss out with an undisclosed muscular injury.
Spurs have issues at left-back in the absences of the suspended Danny Rose and Ben Davies, who has an ankle problem.
Jan Vertonghen is expected to shuffle across from centre-back, which would mean Kevin Wimmer continuing in central defence.
Winger Erik Lamela remains sidelined with a hip complaint and despite returning to training following a knee injury, centre-back Toby Alderweireld will not be risked.