AFTER the disappointing 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in midweek, Chelsea would have been glad for the time to rest and prepare for the London derby against Tottenham tomorrow.
Earmarked as one of the title contenders before the start of the season, recent results have sullied their credentials.
Chelsea have failed to win any of their last four matches and Blues’ boss Thomas Tuchel needs to get his players to refocus and start playing as they did at the beginning of the season.
While attributing fatigue as one of the factors in their recent struggles, there will be much for the German to ponder and get his team back to winning ways.
One thing that Tuchel needs to address is the form of club record signing Romelu Lukaku.
Tuchel is seemingly still trying to find the best formation to get the most out of Lukaku, having used several systems, including 4-2-2-2 and 3-4-2-1, to little effect.
Lukaku is a good striker and his size means that he can hold up play and fend off most defenders by himself.
However, he needs a regular strike partner, someone like Lautaro Martinez of Inter Milan, whom he formed a potent partnership with.
Unfortunately for him, his fellow strikers are often rotated, which may have impacted the understanding between them.
Tuchel is not short of options in attack though, as he can call upon the services of Christian Pulisic, who recently returned from injury, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ross Barkley and Hakim Ziyech.
However, despite not being happy with the big Belgian’s recent controversial interview, Tuchel would have little choice but to start the club’s most expensive forward rather than leave him on the bench.
With Tuchel still trying to find the best system, Chelsea have been adversely impacted.
Defensively, Tuchel will also need to get his players sorted out. They have lost focus and are conceding goals when trying to see out matches.
The Blues not only boast good offensive players, but also have world-class defenders like Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rüdiger.
All three are expected to play as the club’s options have been limited because of long-term injuries to Trevor Chalobah, Ben Chilwell and Reece James.
Andreas Christensen, who contracted Covid-19 and missed the game against the Seagulls, could be back despite his contract stand-off, while Marcos Alonso should also retain his spot in the starting line-up.
With Edouard Mendy away on international duty with Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations, former first choice Kepa Arrizabalaga will continue to stand in in the hope of winning back his place.
In contrast, Spurs will be in high spirits after staging a comeback from 2-1 to defeat Leicester City 3-2 in midweek.
Antonio Conte, who won the Premier League title with Chelsea in 2016/2017, has been doing a fantastic job since his appointment in November, but has yet to beat any of the “big boys” in the league.
They have lost three times to Chelsea this season already, including the EFL Cup semi-finals earlier this month.
Tottenham will have revenge on their minds and hope to take advantage of the Blues’ woes.
Spurs have only played 19 games — four less than Chelsea.
A win for Spurs would take them up to fourth place with 39 points, just one point more than West Ham and they could also potentially knock Chelsea off third spot if they win their games in hand.
With Harry Kane having rediscovered his form with four goals and one assist in his last five games, it could turn out to be a tough day for Chelsea.
The derby should be a cracking game for the neutrals but don’t bet that it will be a high-scoring one.
Having conceded two goals to the Foxes, Conte will surely want to tighten up the defence.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have not lost at home since the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in September last year.
The Blues will have home advantage and the crowd to roar them on. They may just win by a single goal.