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Spotlight Will Be On Two No.1s In Top Four Battle

 • by Sam McGuire
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Chelsea versus Tottenham Hotspur is exactly the type of game Sky Sports imagined when they came up with ‘Super Sunday’. It’s Antonio Conte against Mauricio Pochettino. Tactician against tactician. And a top four place up for grabs.  

There are just eight games of the Premier League campaign remaining and five points separate the two London rivals, with Spurs currently in possession of the final Champions League spot.

Though Chelsea have ground to make up, it’s Conte’s men who are likely to be the more confident heading into the game. And not just because Harry Kane is ruled out.

Since the Italian’s arrival in London, the Blues have won three of the four matches they’ve played against Tottenham in all competitions, scoring eight goals in the process against a usually formidable and resilient backline.

The games between the two sides are often pretty tight with Chelsea having won two of the four matches by the odd goal. The other two finished 4-2 in Conte’s favour while Pochettino’s men picked up a 2-0 victory in January 2017.

However, Spurs’ poor form against Chelsea pre-dates the two current managers. In the last 20 meetings in all competitions, the team from north London have been the victors on just three occasions.

They’ve kept just three clean sheets in that time – 50 per cent fewer than – and have conceded 42 goals. In response they have netted 24 times giving them an average of 1.2 goals per game.

However, Pochettino was appointed to exorcise the demons of yesteryear. To his credit he’s done a superb job. If all goes to plan this term then Spurs will have finished above Chelsea in two of the last three campaigns. And the scoreline doesn’t always tell the whole story.

The home side were victims of smash and grabs in the last two outings against the Blues at Wembley. Spurs, for the most part, were the better team in the 4-2 FA Cup semi-final loss while a Hugo Lloris error gifted Chelsea all three points at the start of the season.

Marcos Alonso netted an 87th minute winner after his low drive, which was more hopeful than dangerous, squirmed underneath the Spurs keeper. It should have been a routine save for France’s No.1 but it somehow ended up in the back of the net.

And it’s this position of the pitch which could decide who wins and loses on Sunday.

Lloris has faced his fair share of criticism this season after a number of questionable moments between the sticks while Thibaut Courtois, the man tasked with guarding in the Chelsea goal, had a night to forget against Barcelona recently.

The future of the Belgium No.1 is an uncertain one and his form has suffered because of it. Courtois hasn’t looked his assured self throughout the campaign. Once impervious, the damn is on the brink of bursting on a regular basis.

His current deal at Stamford Bridge expires in 2019 and he’s believed to be a Real Madrid transfer target. Chelsea want him to extend his stay and have reportedly offered him over £200,000-per-week, but the former Atletico Madrid shot-stopper is stalling as he weighs up his next move.

The decision, however, might be taken out of his hands if reports are true. Liverpool transfer target Alisson now tops Los Blancos‘ summer wish list.

How the two ‘keepers compare

What’s evident in the graphic above is neither team ships many goals with both teams conceding, on average, less than one per game. But this is more of a team stat as opposed to an individual one. While xG values where the shot was taken, post-shot xG looks at where the effort was within the goal – players can add quality to their shots with their finishing and this stat takes it into account.

Using this stat, it’s clear both stoppers have been fairly average this season but that Lloris has performed, slightly, better than Courtois. It’s not a slight on either but the post-shot xG figure shows they’re, more often than not, making saves they’re expected to make and little more.

For context David de Gea and Nick Pope have both saved their respective sides 12 goals this season due to the quality of their. Joe Hart, meanwhile, has cost West Ham United 12 goals.

In terms of distribution there’s not much between the two. Lloris comes out on top in both but it’s by 0.12 for passes per 90 minutes and five per cent when looking at pass completion.

Both can be match-winners on their day but can also make a mistake that swings the match in the opposition’s favour. If the attackers on show have their shooting boots on then it could be an interesting 90 minutes.

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