The key battle in the London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea will take place in the heart of midfield.
It’s a vital clash for both sides with Spurs looking to continue their good form at the top of the table and Chelsea looking to dent a rival, clawing themselves closer to the top spot in the process.
Chelsea’s most important player for this match will arguably be their creative midfielder Oscar and the man tasked with stopping him is likely to be Spurs’ holding player Paulinho and the stats suggest it will be a difficult battle to predict.
He makes just under 50 passes per game on average with just under two key passes per match, which suggests he gets into good positions, makes sensible decisions and is a clear threat.
Paulinho can reduce the chance that Oscar will come up with his first assist by trying to stop the ball from getting to him in the first place, which is where trying to intercept comes in.
He makes two interceptions per game on average from Premier League matches this season. What that tells us is that Paulinho reads the game well and occupies space, cutting off angles and increasing the chance he can pick up possession.
When he does step in to win the ball, he’s superb in terms of distribution, laying the ball off to more creative and attacking players in the Tottenham side. His passing success rate in the Premier League this season is just under 90%.
However, Oscar can shift the ball long distances very quickly and he’s accurate when playing a long ball. He’s making two key long ball passes per game at the moment, which means even if Paulinho breathes down his neck, he can find ways to offload possession.
Another area Oscar has been very good for the Blues this season is drawing fouls in key positions. He picks up 1.8 fouls per game and because he lingers in the attacking third of the pitch, the majority of those can create goalscoring opportunities for Chelsea from a dead ball.
Chelsea are blessed with players who can fire a dead ball towards goal with accuracy, which means it’s important Tottenham are disciplined, don’t dive in and time their challenges well.
Paulinho is doing just that this season with 2.2 tackles per game on average, which again relates back to his ability to win the ball in key situations and under a lot of pressure.
It’ll be fascinating to watch because the pair are naturally glued together due to the positions they play in each side.
Who do you expect to win this key clash?
image: © visualkreator