Jose Mourinho’s men enter the game on the back of a surprise tough-fought 0-0 draw with Sunderland, whilst Spurs are starting to impress under Mauricio Pochettino, with the Argentine coach leading them to two consecutive Premier League wins, with a strong showing in the Europa League in between.
The Lilywhites’ victory over Everton on Sunday was arguably the strongest performance shown this season, and it looks as if the North London club are starting to fully understand Pochettino’s idealised manner of playing. Despite only registering 39% possession, Spurs pressured high up the field to limit Everton’s creativity, conceding the ball in an effort to limit available space. They registered more shots than their Merseyside opponents, and their compression of space was telling with the short distance between the defensive line and Harry Kane - who was often the most advanced player.
It was finally a performance that showed promise to the North London club, and Pochettino will be hoping that Spurs mirror their actions on Wednesday in an effort to defeat Chelsea.
They enter the game with something of an easier situation than expected, with leading scorer Diego Costa suspended for the tie having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the 0-0 draw with the Black Cats, and the Spurs central defenders will be pleased they will not have to face the forward who has 11 goals in as many games.
However, Costa’s absence could play into Chelsea’s hands, with Loic Remy likely to be awarded a starting role at Stamford Bridge. Whilst featuring much less than Costa, French international Remy has looked impressive in a number of cameo appearances, and he has one goal in five Premier League games so far - of which four have been substitute appearances. Commonly regarded for his pace, his threat is different to that posed by Costa, and Chelsea would more likely be threading the ball through the middle of the pitch with him in the play, rather than lifting it into the final third for Costa to battle with the central defenders.
Playing a more close-knit game allows the passing of Cesc Fabregas to excel, and he should be looking for Remy to be making runs off the last defender, exploiting the compression of space that Spurs employ.
To limit the movement in the middle third of the pitch, Pochettino has his team set out with a short distance between central defender and striker, but in doing this, the defenders leave a lot of space behind them. Jan Vertonghen and Federico Fazio are likely to keep their places in the starting XI against the Blues, and Vertonghen has enough pace to cover for any mistakes made in the defensive unit. However, Fazio does not, and Remy would be wise to sit on his shoulder and exploit any space between the last man and the goalkeeper.
The Lilywhites system may limit the effectiveness of Fabregas in the middle of the pitch, with a lack of time on the ball stopping him from controlling the game in his usual manner, but it could cost the side elsewhere. Fabregas may not thread as many passes through to Remy as usual, but it will be much easier for the French forward to exploit the space behind the defence, and it could prove that Costa’s absence has actually helped Chelsea.