London, United Kingdom, Jan 4 – Antonio Conte knows Chelsea will face a fierce challenge from fired-up Tottenham as the Premier League leaders bid to set a new record winning streak on Wednesday.
Conte’s side would become the first team to win 14 successive English top-flight games within the same season if they emerge victorious from what will be a red-hot atmosphere at White Hart Lane.
Clashes between these London rivals have always been volatile, but they have become even more explosive of late, with a combination of Chelsea’s record chase and Tottenham’s revenge mission making the latest instalment not one for the faint-hearted.
Tottenham need no reminding of how Chelsea brought their own title challenge to an end last season, when a bad-tempered 2-2 draw that included 12 yellow cards and numerous ugly clashes confirmed Leicester would be champions.
Harry Kane, the Tottenham and England striker, admits he and his team-mates have been plotting their revenge.
“We definitely don’t want to be the team that lets Chelsea break that record,” Kane warned.
“Of course, we know that’s in our mind, we were just talking about it there in the changing room.
“We don’t want to be that team they break the record against so we’re fully focused. It’s going to be a great game and we’re excited for it.”
Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in November completed a run of one win in 10 matches in all competitions that suggested they would struggle to repeat last season’s exploits.
But since then Mauricio Pochettino’s side have rediscovered their rhythm, winning five of their last six league games and scoring 18 goals.
Sunday’s 4-1 win at Watford, which followed a 4-1 success at Southampton, briefly took Spurs into the top four, only for Manchester City to supplant them by beating Burnley on Monday
– History beckons –
But if Spurs are on fine form, Chelsea are on fire and can go eight points clear of the chasing pack with a win in north London.
They racked up win number 13 by overcoming Stoke City 4-2 on New Year’s Eve, equalling Arsenal’s 2002 record for the most consecutive wins within the same Premier League campaign.
Victory at Spurs will equal Arsenal’s overall record of 14 successive wins — set over two seasons in 2002 — and leave them one win from claiming the record outright.
With history beckoning, Conte has told his players to embrace the pressure of being hunted down by Tottenham and the rest of the title chasers, led by Liverpool.
“Every team wants to stop our run, not only Tottenham,” Conte said.
“Don’t worry about this, about the other teams, about the fans. Not one person wants to kill the championship.
“To win 13 games in a row is not easy, above all in this league. This league is very tough and every game you can lose points.
“For this reason it’s important to keep the right concentration, to be focused in every game, if you play against Tottenham or another team.”
Pedro Rodriguez returns from suspension for Chelsea and will hope to recover his place from Willian.
Spurs will welcome back first-choice defenders Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen, both of whom missed the trip to Watford through suspension.