Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, in competition for a top-four Premier League finish, clash in the EPL on Sunday (11:30am ET).
In the eyes of the bookmakers and bettors, the contest for the final top-four place behind odds-on favourites Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester will be fought between Chelsea and Spurs. Chelsea have the edge but Spurs have recently made up serious ground.
Just five matches ago, Chelsea were in third with a 12-point margin over a Spurs side then in the bottom half. Since then, Spurs have the Premier League’s third-best record, with 12 points from four wins and a defeat, while Chelsea have the league’s third-worst, with just three points from one win and four defeats. Just three points now separate them.
Tottenham’s turnaround has coincided with the arrival of Jose Mourinho, who replaced the sacked Mauricio Pochettino following a poor start to the domestic season. When he took over, Mourinho made it clear that he felt the club should be much higher up the table, but even he probably didn’t expect to be within striking distance of the top four at this stage.
Spurs secured their fourth win under him with a hard-fought 2-1 victory away to Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend. They took an early lead when Lucas Moura fired hard and high into the back of the net from inside the area. Wolves did equalize with just over twenty minutes to play but Jan Vertonghen then headed home an injury time winner from a corner.
It was, in many ways, a classic Mourinho away performance. Spurs soaked up a fair amount of pressure without ever really conceding a high-quality chance and then found a way of getting themselves all three points despite the earlier equalizer. It was arguably their best defensive performance of his time in charge. Given the attacking quality at his disposal, improving that side of things could well bear significant fruit.
It is still very early days and it is difficult to tell how much of Tottenham’s uptick in results can be attributed to the squad becoming tired of Pochettino’s methods, the changes Mourinho has made, or simply that their schedule under him has been relatively kind. Sunday’s match should provide us with a further and potentially revealing data point.
Chelsea were, of course, the club at which Mourinho first made his name on English shores. One of the key players from his time there will be in the away dugout this weekend. Frank Lampard became one of the best goalscoring midfielders in Europe under Mourinho and has done a very solid job since becoming Chelsea head coach in the summer.
Indeed, until the recent results slump, Lampard looked to have Chelsea well on course for a top-four finish. Five matches ago, not only did they have a big margin over Spurs, but they were also nine points clear of Sheffield United in fifth, with strong underlying numbers to boot.
Those underlying numbers have held, but Chelsea still travel to North London on a run of four defeats in five, including last weekend’s 0-1 loss at home to Bournemouth, that has seen their grip on a top-four place loosen considerably.
Chelsea remain a fundamentally sound team, but as we approach the midway point of the campaign, their inability to convert that into a bigger advantage over Spurs and a Manchester United side who sit just a point further back in sixth may well come back to haunt them if Spurs, in particular, can continue their recent renaissance.
Our Preview’s Tottenham vs Chelsea Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Three points for Spurs on Sunday would see them leapfrog Chelsea into the top four on goal difference. It is a result that recent performances suggest could well be within their capabilities. When it comes to having a bet with one of America’s elite oddssetters, this is our Spurs vs Chelsea prediction for this EPL match preview: