Tottenham star ready to take fight to league leaders
Red-hot Alli can land early blow
Sky Sports 1, 8pm Wednesday
Chelsea's sequence of 13 league wins has put them in command of the title race and they will attempt to equal Arsenal’s Premier League record of 14 successive victories when taking on fifth-placed Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
All the ingredients are in place for a high-quality, high-tempo contest and the size of the occasion is unlikely to faze Tottenham’s Dele Alli, who is playing at the top of his game and looks a tasty 8-1 shot to score the opening goal.
A win for Chelsea would stretch their lead over Liverpool to eight points and increase their aura of invincibility but a defeat would offer hope to the chasing pack, including Spurs, who would rise to within seven points of top spot.
A Blues’ wobble is necessary for other teams to come into the equation but three of Chelsea’s next five games are against current top-five teams – they travel to Liverpool on January 31 and host Arsenal in early February.
Chelsea’s winning streak has coincided with a switch to a three-man defence but they haven’t always looked in control of their matches and one of their most uncomfortable experiences was the 2-1 win at home to Spurs in November when they were outclassed for the majority of the first half.
Tottenham matched Chelsea’s formation at Stamford Bridge and Mauricio Pochettino deployed a back three to good effect in Sunday’s comprehensive 4-1 victory at Watford.
However, Spurs were just as impressive when playing with a back four in last Wednesday’s 4-1 victory at Southampton and Pochettino has suggested that improved player performances rather than tactical tweaks have been key to Spurs’s revival.
Christian Eriksen, who had a quiet start to the season, returned to prominence with his stunning goal in the defeat at Stamford Bridge and has netted twice in each of the wins over Hull (3-0) and Swansea (5-0).
Harry Kane, with ten goals from just 14 league appearances, looks back to his best but has been outshone over the festive period by Alli, who has netted five goals in his last three games.
Alli’s delayed runs into the penalty area could be the biggest danger to Chelsea’s well-organised defence and his threat to the Blues is significant enough to justify a first goal-scorer wager.
Costa leads the Premier League scoring charts with 14 goals and has scored the opening goal in four of his last seven appearances. He is 4-1 to bag the opener against Spurs and 5-4 to net at any time but he hasn’t scored in any of his last four matches against Pochettino’s side.
Hazard has had a quieter spell, scoring just twice in his last seven outings, but the Belgian has scored in four of his last six games against Spurs, including last season’s memorable goal at Stamford Bridge which sealed the title for Leicester.
Hazard is a 6-1 chance to open the scoring while every other likely Chelsea starter is available at double-figure quotes.
With so many high-quality attackers on the pitch, a high-scoring match is expected with over 2.5 goals at 19-20 and both teams to score at 7-10.
However, both teams are strong at the back with Chelsea conceding 13 league goals this season (the lowest in the division) and Spurs 14.
It could take a moment of magic to separate the sides and a super-confident Alli looks as likely as anyone to produce it.
D Alli first scorer
1pt 8-1 bet365, BoyleSports, Sky Bet
Erik Lamela (hip) is unavailable but Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker return from suspensions and Mousa Dembele could feature after being rested for the 4-1 win at Watford.
Pedro is available after a ban and no fresh injuries are reported. Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas are vying for a midfield berth.
Dele Alli has scored the first goal in three of his last six appearances