How Tottenham can turn the tables on Chelsea and avoid more Stamford Bridge misery

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Less than a fortnight has passed since Tottenham were, for the second time in a week, outplayed and outclassed by a Chelsea side barely out of second gear.

Since then, none of the hoped-for new signings have arrived and some of Antonio Conte’s sorely-missed injured players, most notably Cristian Romero and Heung-min Son, are still not back in the fold.

Were Sunday’s swift rematch between the two sides at Stamford Bridge a horse race, it would take some leap of imagination to come up with any reason why Spurs might reverse the form.

True, Chelsea are hardly galloping along themselves, but their draw-happy malaise, which continued at Brighton on Tuesday night, stretches way back into last year and did not stop Thomas Tuchel’s side raising their game for two legs of a Carabao Cup semi-final, not that they particularly needed to.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg said Wednesday’s late victory over Leicester felt like “a bit more than three points” and so it will have to prove, the nature of that success perhaps filling Conte’s side with an aggression, positivity and confidence that was so lacking across the course of 180 passive minutes against the Blues earlier this month.

But there are more tangible tweaks to take from the King Power, too, not least in the performance of the fit-again Sergio Reguilon at left-wing-back and, after his half-time introduction in place of the one-paced Emerson Royal, that of Matt Doherty on the opposite flank.

Tuchel knows only too well the benefit of having two flying, well-balanced wing-backs playing on the appropriate side of the pitch — indeed, he would attribute much of Chelsea’s recent downturn to being without the best of his. And for all he is not the answer long-term, Doherty must surely come in to start here.

Steven Bergwijn, naturally, has a major case to join him, after his King Power rescue act, but quite where he fits in remains to be seen.

Conte started a conservative midfield three of Oliver Skipp, Harry Winks and Hojbjerg at Leicester and, thanks largely to Reguilon’s drive, did not suffer for it in an attacking sense. Abandoning that structure so soon for a more ambitious line-up away to the European champions would be a gamble.

That could mean Lucas Moura making way instead. Though he has generally impressed under Conte, the Brazilian was subdued in midweek, and Bergwijn’s greater threat in behind might stretch Chelsea and bring more out of Harry Kane, who was too easily kept under wraps by Antonio Rudiger the last two times these sides met.

Where Conte has less room to manoeuvre is in his own defence. Eric Dier is back in contention but, for the final time before Romero’s return, he will have to turn to at least one of Japhet Tanganga and Ben Davies, as well as Davinson Sanchez, a trio who, even when not conjuring their own mistakes, have a touch of the Frank Spencers about them, stalked by misfortune everywhere they go.

To turn the tables on Tuchel’s side, Spurs must be bold, pick smart and make their own luck, or else face a familiar story.

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