The fixture list is a cruel mistress. When your key attacking player gets injured, it would be nice to be able to figure out how you’re going to manage without him against a couple of the Premier League’s whipping boys.
Instead, when our Luka Modric gets injured, the fixture list throws up Manchester United followed by Chelsea. We crashed and burned against United at home and now comes part two of this grand test.
We should be better prepared. Modric’s injury and the disruption of the international break, resulted in a team and formation that were always going to struggle against such quality opposition as Manchester United. One would expect that Kranjcar will start on the left against Chelsea, with Keane returning to play just behind Defoe. Palacios has now had time to recover from his round the world trip and needs to be back to his best.
The selection dilemmas for Harry Redkapp are whether to play Carlo Cudicini or drop him for Gomes and to choose between Huddlestone and Jenas in midfield. My gut feeling is that we will see Gomes and Huddlestone in the starting eleven.
We know what to expect from Chelsea. A solid defence, an extremely powerful central midfield and an attack full of pace and strength. They are a formidable outfit, but this game represents their biggest challenge of the season thus far and it will be interesting to see how they cope with us.
The talking point of Carlo Ancelotti’s formation at Chelsea, has been the extremely narrow midfield four that he employs. This formation makes it difficult for the opposition to compete with Chelsea in central midfield, but leaves the Blues susceptible to attacks down the flanks.
Which means that Aaron Lennon should be our key player on Sunday. With our central midfield duo being helped out by Robbie Keane dropping deep and Niko Kranjcar pulling inside, we should be the equal of Chelsea on a numerical basis in central midfield. This will leave Lennon free to do what he does best.
If Chelsea decide to play the left sided midfielder of their diamond further to the flank to look after the threat of Lennon, then that should give us more space in central midfield. We could even decide to go with a central midfield three of Jenas, Huddlestone and Palacios; giving Lennon a free role. I well remember Lennon excelling in this position at Stamford Bridge in an FA Cup tie that saw us take a 3-1 lead, before being pegged back to 3-3.
It all points to a fascinating afternoon and should give us further indication as to just where Redknapp’s team is at. Taking a cold, analytical view, defeat would not be a disaster, when it would leave us with 12 points from 6 games, that included encounters with Liverpool, Manchester United and Liverpool.
But this is Chelsea away and therefore not the time or the place to be cold and analytical. A draw would represent a good result and a win would see many Tottenham fans spontaneously combust with excitement. I’m going to predict that we will repeat the scoreline from last season and waltz away from Stamford Bridge with a 1-1 draw.