23rd March, 2012
Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow in a match which could prove decisive in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Spurs have spent much of the English Premier League season flying high in third place, and at one stage appeared potential title challengers, alongside Manchester United and Manchester City.
But a sequence of four league matches without a win has seen Tottenham slip back to fourth, outside the automatic Champions League qualification berths.
A finish of fourth in England’s top flight offers a route into the qualifying playoffs for UEFA’s elite club competition, but Spurs are unlikely to seal their place without a struggle.
Resurgent Chelsea, in fifth place, sit just five points behind their fellow London club, and are enjoying an upturn in fortunes following the dismissal of manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Caretaker Roberto di Matteo has guided the team into the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the last four of the FA Cup, while also bagging a league win over Stoke City.
His team led 1-0 away to second-placed Manchester City on Wednesday, only to concede twice in the final moments and walk away empty-handed following a 2-1 defeat.
This weekend Chelsea have a chance to close the gap on Spurs to just two points with a win at Stamford Bridge.
Tottenham, meanwhile need to seize the opportunity to get back on track with a victory, and can increase their buffer to a healthy eight points if they do so.
Spurs have no new injury worries to contend with, although on-loan striker Emmanuel Adebayor is a slight doubt due to a hamstring problem. Flying winger Aaron Lennon may return from a hamstring issue of his own.
Longer-term absentees Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone and Heurelho Gomes remain sidelined.
Chelsea lost fullback Branislav Ivanovic to a thigh problem in their defeat at City, and the Serbia international is in doubt for the visit of Tottenham.
The club captain John Terry could return from knee trouble, but holding midfielder Oriel Romeu (hamstring) is out.