November 24, 2016 3:16:28 pm
Tottenham Hotspur may be licking their wounds after crashing out of the Champions League but they must quickly refocus as they return to Premier League action on Saturday at leaders Chelsea in their third straight London derby.
Spurs were eliminated from Europe’s premier competition at the group stage after a sloppy display in a 2-1 defeat at Monaco on Tuesday but remain the only unbeaten Premier League side.
That record almost went last weekend when they trailed West Ham United in the final minutes before Harry Kane scored twice, including a late penalty, to snatch a remarkable 3-2 win.
Now they move across London to face Antonio Conte’s resurgent Chelsea, who are seeking a seventh successive league victory.
Kane began a scoring run of four goals in three games with a penalty in a 1-1 draw against Arsenal at the start of the month and will again spearhead a Tottenham side seeking to banish the memories of their last visit to Stamford Bridge in May.
On that occasion, they blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2, a result that effectively ended their hopes of winning a first top-flight title since 1961 when they won the league and FA Cup double.
On Saturday, fifth-placed Spurs are likely to start with defenders Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen, who were surprisingly rested by Mauricio Pochettino against Monaco, but they must do without the suspended Danny Rose and injured Toby Aiderweireld.
Chelsea have no injury problems after a week of recuperation and have Premier League top scorer Diego Costa showing his best form since arriving in England with 10 goals and three assists.
Saturday’s game and their next fixture at Manchester City should provide the perfect test of their title aspirations.
City, a point off the pace in third and fresh from qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League with a 1-1 draw at Borussia Moenchengladbach, make the short trip to Burnley.
Fourth-placed Arsenal, two points further back, entertain a Bournemouth side missing on-loan Jack Wilshere, who cannot play against his parent club.
With their 2-2 draw against Paris St Germain on Wednesday, the Gunners stretched their unbeaten record to 18 matches in all competitions.
Second-placed Liverpool, also a point off the top, face resurgent Sunderland at Anfield, a ground where the visitors have not won since 1983.
With Adam Lallana again injured, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp must decide whether to recall Daniel Sturridge who is being linked with a move in January, possibly to Southampton.
Klopp warned against the dangers of complacency in midweek, no doubt with Saturday’s game in mind against opponents who looked relegation certainties a couple of weeks ago.
But, fired by the goals of Victor Anichebe and Jermain Defoe, David Moyes’s side have registered back-to-back wins to go above Swansea City at the bottom.
Bob Bradley’s Welsh side are without a league victory since the opening day and face a vital game against Crystal Palace, who are themselves just one point above the drop zone.
Palace’s poor form – they are the worst team in the country in 2016 with an average of 0.71 points per game – is putting pressure on manager Alan Pardew, with British media speculating that he could be sacked if they fail to win in Wales.
Other managers in need of a lift are Everton’s Ronald Koeman against his former club Southampton on Sunday and Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho, whose side play West Ham having drawn their last three league games at Old Trafford.
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