Tottenham currently sit top of the table, after their 4-1 win against Southampton on Saturday. Antonio Conte’s side produced a solid display, to secure three points in their first fixture.
However, up next is their first London derby, with Spurs travelling to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Conte will want to put a change to last season’s results against Chelsea, with the Lilywhites playing them twice in the Premier League and twice in the Carabao Cup and losing all four games.
It’s not only last season where the results at Stamford Bridge haven’t been great. Tottenham have lost their last six games at the Bridge, with their last away victory against the Blues being in 2018 and before that, it was in 2008.
There have been lots of changes at both clubs, since the two sides last faced each other, meaning the game could be closer than before. Chelsea are now under new owners and although they have brought in a number of players, they have also seen a number leave.
Conte has massively transformed his Tottenham side, improving the players he already has in his squad and welcoming six new additions to it. In N17 on Saturday, the Italian’s line-up didn’t consist of any of the summer signings, which he responded to, in his post match press conference.
“I am not surprised because I think that I use common sense because in this moment we are starting the new season and the old players reach a big achievement last season to get a place in Champions League. In the last 10 games I think we played really well and we had fantastic results,” he said.
“With the old players, I am in a step forward. For this reason I prefer to count on the start on the older players but I think it was right after this game and the final result.”
In such a big fixture, Conte may decide to stick to the starting line-up that played against the Saints. However there could be a number of changes the 53-year-old decides to make and we take a look at three of the potential decisions he faces.
Matt Doherty for Emerson Royal
Last season the right wing-back duo were battling for regular game time. Doherty arguably had the better season, but his ended prematurely, through injury. Royal produced inconsistent displays, but did improve as the season came to an end. The Brazilian started the match on Saturday and aside from a shaky first half performance, made a real impact in the second 45 minutes.
Conte’s comments last week did seem to indicate that the Irishman may be the first choice. “I hope to bring him in the same situation as last season as I think Matthew, he played really well,” he said. “At the moment we need to have a bit of patience. He needs to have a bit of patience but is working very well to be fit quickly.”
Doherty played in three out of the four fixtures against Chelsea last season and so has had plenty of London derby experience. Although the Italian seems to have some fitness concerns for the 30-year-old, would his age, experience and performances when he was fit last year mean he deserves to start on Sunday. Royal may well keep his place, due to his second half impact against Southampton, but it is not a completely obvious decision.
Ivan Perisic for Ryan Sessegnon
Another who made an impact on Saturday is Sessegnon. The youngster scored Spurs’ equalising goal against Southampton and after the game, spoke about the impact Perisic has already had on him.
“He is a great, great player. He won a lot of titles but he is also a great person,” the 22-year-old explained. “He has helped me a lot straight away already. It can only be good for us to both be challenging for that left-wing spot.
“Even for the goal today, he literally told me get in the back post and you will score. That helped me today. He said Kyle Walker-Peters is quite small at the back post so if a ball goes in make sure you are there to head it in.”
Sessegnon played well on Saturday and seems to only be improving under Conte. Meanwhile, the Tottenham boss also has some fitness concerns around Perisic. However, another player with both age and experience, could the Croat be given his first Premier League start? If Perisic can take some of the advice he has been giving the younger players since his arrival, he could be very much up for a London derby.
Yves Bissouma for Rodrigo Bentanucur
Another tough call could be in the central midfield spots. With Oliver Skipp out injured, it means Rodrigo Bentancur, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Yves Bissouma will battle it out for the two places.
It was the former duo who started against Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side, after they built up their on-field relationship last season. Both dealt with much of what was thrown at them and made as much impact as they could, both offensively and defensively.
The summer arrival got less than ten minutes on the pitch, but had also been recovering from a slight injury earlier in the week. Hojbjerg is likely to remain in midfield, with the Dane being a leader figure for Spurs in that role. Bentancur played well on Saturday, so may keep his spot. However, from his time at Brighton, Bissouma does have experience of playing against Chelsea.
The added aggression the 25-year-old has could be perfect for the London derby. However, his lack of game time at his new club, may not be worth the risk in a big fixture.
There are decisions for Conte to make, ahead of Sunday’s tie and they may depend on how the week goes and the fitness levels of the Tottenham players. The wing-back choices seem to be weighing up age and experience, whilst the midfield options also provide different qualities.
Whoever the 53-year-old starts the game with, he will hope his other squad members are ready to come on if needed and hope his Spurs side can change the results from last season.