Chelsea v Spurs - media view with Phil McNulty, BBC Sport
19 April 2017|Tottenham Hotspur
As the BBC Sport's Chief Football Writer, Phil McNulty and has years of experience working at the very highest level of football including Premier League, Champions League and covering England. He now gives his view on one of the biggest games of the season, our FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley...
Chief Football Writer, BBC Sport
What are your thoughts on both teams going into this huge semi-final?
Phil: "I think Tottenham are the team going into this semi-final with real momentum. They have had those seven straight league wins and have been pulling results out of the bag away from home, like that incredible late rally to win 3-1 at Swansea City. Spurs must feel invincible at the moment. All their big players are playing well, they are scoring goals and are very obviously loving playing for Mauricio Pochettino. Harry Kane is back and scoring, Dele Alli is as good as anyone in the Premier League at the moment and it’s a team with quality in all parts. Heung-Min Son has also been a revelation.
"Chelsea have had a bit of a blip recently but remain an outstanding side. Just look at their league record. Like Spurs, they have quality all over the park and a manager in Antonio Conte who has done a superb job this season, putting his stamp on the side tactically after a couple of poor results early on such as the home defeat to Liverpool and the 3-0 loss at Arsenal.
"I just think Spurs will have more confidence and they will hope one or two doubts have started to creep into Chelsea’s minds after the home loss to Crystal Palace and a poor performance when losing 2-0 at Manchester United. For the neutral, it has got all the ingredients to be a Wembley classic. Two top class sides full of outstanding players led by two of the best managers around. Let’s hope it lives up to the billing."
Below: Dele on target against Chelsea at the Lane in January
Tactically, what do you think might be the key areas at Wembley?
Phil: "I am wondering whether Spurs might have learned a trick or two from how Jose Mourinho went about beating Chelsea at Old Trafford last Sunday. He effectively outlined how he thinks they can be overcome. He man marked Eden Hazard, with Ander Herrera totally reducing his impact. Mourinho made it clear he felt the way to take the sting out of Chelsea was to deal with Hazard and Pedro, who play behind Diego Costa. Mourinho believes if you control those two players you exert a measure of control on Chelsea - who were also troubled by the pace of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.
"Will Pochettino do the same? Would he detail someone like Eric Dier to shadow Hazard? I will be really intrigued to see if Pochettino tailors his usual approach to copy Mourinho’s winning formula because I think the influence of players such as Hazard and Alli could decide the outcome at Wembley. Hazard is a magnificent footballer, a match-winner, so last Sunday at Old Trafford may just have been informative for Spurs."
Below: Eric Dier takes on Diego Costa at the Bridge
Last but not least - how do you think it will go on Saturday?
Phil: "Sorry to mention this - but every Spurs fan will know their record at Wembley so they will need to overcome that for a start. I remember the 2012 FA Cup semi-final which turned into a nightmare for Spurs as Chelsea won 5-1, with that controversial goal from Juan Mata that anyone with a leaning towards White Hart Lane will argue forever never crossed the line. At least Spurs have the happier memories of the 2008 League Cup Final but all this will count for nothing on Saturday. I actually think Spurs are the best team in the country right at the moment and if they can overcome whatever has gripped them at Wembley in recent times, I take them to win narrowly in what I think will be a high-quality game between two top teams."