Tottenham vs Chelsea: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle singles out three stars who can have a significant say in proceedings when Tottenham face Chelsea on Monday.

Local rivalries taste different in English football, in North London, Merseyside or Manchester. There is another one between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea that often goes under the radar and not taken all too seriously. But it is as bitter as it gets.

The problem with this rivalry and the level of seriousness attached to it is over the past many decades, neither of these sides had a relevant say in English football. After the emergence of Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, the Blues became the most dominant side in London, surpassing Arsenal. But in recent seasons, the tides have changed.

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As things stand, Chelsea are at their lowest levels compared to the last two decades, while Tottenham have emerged as one of the big English sides in that period through careful rise in the background. The rivalry between the north and west London sides have often had an edgy feeling and plenty of history to go around with.

This particular rivalry reached its peak when Chelsea ended Tottenham’s title hopes in the 2015/16 season, which Leicester City won. Spurs fans will remember the late surge from a certain Eden Hazard that took the title away, and since then, these sides have always been on the edge whenever they meet.

Early last season, their clash at Stamford Bridge saw managers Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte clash in the now infamous handshake incident. Since then, the tide may have changed slightly in the reverse fixture. But Chelsea aim to restore their former selves in the mix.

Tottenham, currently in second place on the table after the weekend’s action, could return to the summit with a staggering win over Chelsea. The Blues, on the other hand, are fighting to stay relevant as one of the big teams. But they have not been in the top half of the table for a long time now.

Standings and statistics aside, this derby is more about pride than racking up numbers. But for Spurs, there is more to lose and plenty to gain. For the Blues, they can surely come here with a clear objective of inflicting as much pain on Tottenham’s title chances as they did a few years back.

Hence, for a game of this magnitude, both teams will have to rely on the individual quality of certain players to find a way to turn the tide. Chelsea, for instance, are still finding their ground with their style and approach towards games. Tottenham appear to have a system in place, but again, all eyeballs will be on their performance against a big team.

Here, we have singled out three players who can have a telling effect in proceedings when Tottenham host Chelsea to continue their bitter rivalry or mark the start of a new era. From the Blues, Moises Caicedo might have to play a crucial role, as will Raheem Sterling. Meanwhile, Micky van de Ven might have to rely on his expertise to stop a group of Chelsea attackers packed with pace.

Micky van de Ven

Somebody recently described Micky van de Ven as the Erling Haaland of defenders. And so far, the Dutchman has not proved those notions wrong. Only a few players can dream of a start like the former VfL Wolfsburg man has had and come out as one of the best centre-backs in a league entirely of quality stars.

Apart from astute defending, van de Ven also has plenty of pace and has surprised many with his fantastic reach to cover massive patches of the pitch. That particular attribute is vital in this fixture with Chelsea, who have direct attackers like Raheem Sterling or Nicolas Jackson. So, the Dutchman might have to be on his toes to keep them in check.

The summer signing has proven his worth already, showing why he is a top defender for Spurs. But these are games in which the actual quality needs to come to the fore. Chelsea, for the best part, have been abysmal in their ability to score goals but not for their talent to unlock defences.

Hence, it will be a tough challenge for van de Ven and his partner, Cristian Romero, to keep their attackers in check at all times. For the Dutchman, it is a game of massive importance, more than he might think at this stage.

Moises Caicedo

The similarities between the Moises Caicedo and the Declan Rice transfers are a few million pounds. Still, in the latter’s case, nobody talks about the price tag anymore. For the Ecuadorian, the massive valuation still looms over his head, which he needs to shrug off as soon as possible.

Caicedo was a brilliant player for Brighton & Hove Albion, and Chelsea fans have only seen glimpses. Yet, in games like the one against Arsenal, he was imperious in that midfield and battled hard with his adversary Rice. Without either coming out as the undisputed winner in that contest, the Ecuadorian did show he can perform at the highest levels.

Against Tottenham, it is a different challenge altogether, and Caicedo will have a significant part in proceedings, especially for the way Spurs play nowadays. The possession-based style has a few chunks in the armour, primarily when opposition teams work out transitions.

Caicedo is an expert ball-winner, and here, he must find the right pass for his attackers to exploit. Overall, the record-signing must show his class and win his battles against that Tottenham midfield consisting of Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr.

Raheem Sterling

Sterling remains one of the formidable attackers in English football. But he needs to cut out the inconsistencies in his game. This has been a problem since his move to Chelsea, and now, under Mauricio Pochettino, he may have a platform to become the team’s leading attacker if he has not already.

Sterling is one of the most dangerous players in transitions, and Chelsea are steadily adapting to a similar style that would suit the winger. As for Tottenham’s full-backs, they are playing a different game under Ange Postecoglou, with either Pedro Porro or Destiny Udogie inverting from time to time.

The prospects of Sterling running behind that backline are high, and fans would see the sight more often in games like these. For the winger, he still has a major point to prove at Chelsea, and these are games to endear himself to the club’s faithful supporters.

Sterling must cause all sorts of problems for the Tottenham defence and might have a big say in how this result swings. Other Chelsea attackers must also remain on their toes to put away chances, and Sterling will indeed work hard to create some in these big clashes.

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