Following last weekends shock 3-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge to Burnley, Chelsea face bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the first Premier League fixture at Wembley. Tottenham will play both domestic and European fixtures at the National Stadium for the 2017-18 season due to the construction of New White Hart Lane.
In their opening fixture at the Bridge, Chelsea lost to Burnley 3-2 – a team which only won once on their travels last season. Conte’s description of the team having ‘two faces’ was perfectly accurate; in the first half the Champions lost all composure following Gary Cahill’s 14th-minute red card and Burnley took advantage of it. Two goals from Sam Vokes and a long-range strike from Stephen Ward killed the game before half-time. There was some sort of response in the second half since the last thing anyone in the Club wanted was an embarrassing drubbing. Fabregas was sent off in between Morata scoring on debut and David Luiz scoring a consolation goal. Ultimately, Chelsea finished with 9, lost their opening fixture for the first time in 19 seasons and became the second defending champions to lose on the opening day of the season.
So, Chelsea comes into this titanic tussle on the back of a defeat, unlike their opponents from North London. Tottenham defeated Newcastle at St. James’ Park 2-0 on the opening weekend but both goals came after Jonjo Shelvey received a red-card for stamping on Dele Alli. Had the red card not occurred, then it would’ve been a different game since Newcastle were solid defensively but the intricate quality of Eriksen, Alli, Son shone through once Newcastle were a man down.
Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas will be absent following their red cards against Burnley; the latter providing a significant issue for the midfield. Due to the lack of depth, Conte confirmed Bakayoko could be risked despite only having featured in a behind-closed-doors friendly against an under-20 QPR side. It would be a severe risk so expect the Frenchman to possibly feature from the bench. Bakayoko on the bench would mean either Luiz or Christensen to start alongside Kante; my bets would hedge towards Luiz due to his experience in a midfield role. Luiz did feature in midfield during Rafa Benitez’s interim stint as Chelsea manager and under Jose Mourinho in the 2013-14 season. Expect Cesar Azpilicueta to be reverted back into the three-man defence with Victor Moses returning from suspension. Pedro also returns after missing the Burnley game but Conte confirmed that he is feeling pain in his ankle so it is expected he will be on the bench, as opposed to aggravating an injury. The game should come too soon for Eden Hazard despite the Belgian training following his broken ankle. Due to the uncertainty concerning Pedro, expect to see Batshuayi as the central striker and Morata on the wing.
Expected line-up: Courtois; Azpilicueta (C), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, David Luiz, Alonso; Willian, Batshuayi, Morata.
After a disappointing start to the season, Chelsea simply cannot afford to lose. Tottenham will also want to not lose their opening fixture at Wembley, especially as it is a ground which hasn’t served them well in the past. In 10 appearances at the National Stadium, Tottenham have only won twice. Their first victory came against Sunday’s opponents in the 2008 League Cup final where Jonathan Woodgate scored an extra time winner after Dimitar Berbatov cancelled out a Didier Drogba free-kick. The North London outfit chalked up their second win in a dead-rubber Champions League tie against CSKA Moscow last season.
Prediction: Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea.