The excitement is building for Spurs first cup final in five years. The chance to take some silverware back to White Hart Lane.
The midweek capitulation in Florence was disappointing but all that’s forgotten, the focus is on Wembley and Chelsea. As Danny Blanchflower famously said, “The game is about glory” – here’s our chance to grab a piece of it.
While our opponents will be favourites, the 5-3 win on New Year’s Day proves Spurs are more than just plucky outsiders. That cold January night Eriksen, Chadli and Kane dismantled the Chelsea defence. Unfortunately, Mourinho will have studied the tape of that game and if there’s one coach who knows how to come up with a defensive scheme, it’s Jose.
Still, the champions elect have looked vulnerable of late and it’s not a bad time to be facing them. Matic’s suspension helps and the obvious backup, John Obi Mikel, is out injured.
Contrastingly Pochettino has a fully fit squad, despite Tottenham having played more games than anyone else in the Premier League. The issue will be tiredness after the midweek game in Florence.
Spurs will need to be at their very best to win and a lot of that will come down to taking advantage of a slow Chelsea central defence and the possible lack of cover in midfield opened up by the loss of Matic and Mikel. Getting behind Ivanovic, a fullback who loves to get forward may also provide a useful avenue to attack.
While Spurs must stick to Pochettino’s pressing game, the key will be to leave cover to stop the likes of Fabregas and Hazard having a free run at our defence. Even in victory we looked very vulnerable to counters last time out.
Lloris has to play. He is arguably Spurs best player and it would be crazy not to start him. The issue only arises because Vorm has featured in all previous rounds. Leaving Lloris on the bench would hand the psychological initiative to Chelsea.
Walker, Dier, Vertonghen and Rose should make up our backline. None of those played the whole ninety minutes in Florence and it will be vital they are on their toes against the likes of Costa, Fabregas and Hazard.
Bentaleb should be the team’s anchor. I would have rested him on Thursday but at least he came off after an hour.
I’m torn about who to play alongside him. The two options are Mason and Dembele. Normally I’m not a Dembele fan and he had a very poor game against West Ham. However, he came on as an early substitute for Mason in the match on New Year’s day and his power in the centre helped us get a foothold in the game. Chelsea pose a very different set of problems to West Ham and much as I like him, I don’t think Mason provides the answers.
The first name on the team sheet these days is Harry Kane. The remarkable rise of the young striker was sealed on that cold winter’s night just after Christmas. Two goals and an assist against the league leaders silenced those malcontents who insisted he was just a flat track bully.
The trio behind is less easy to pick. Eriksen has looked tired of late. Lamela still isn’t quite firing. Townsend is his usual frustrating self. Chadli hasn’t been in the starting line up for a while.
My three would be Chadli, Eriksen and Lamela. Chadli was almost as big a part of the league victory over Mourinho’s team as Kane. Eriksen remains clearly our best number 10 and with no Matic or Mikel, he should find himself with some space. Lamela works hard and we need that to keep Chelsea’s attacking talent quiet. I still have the feeling he has a big performance in him, here’s hoping it’s on Sunday.
I’m going to be at the match. It will be only the second time I’ve seen Spurs at Wembley. The first was with my dad, at the old ground, back in the 1993 FA Cup semi-final loss – not my favourite footballing memory. Let’s hope tomorrow will be something special.
Come on you Spurs!
What team would you play? Are you confident Spurs will win? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.