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Tottenham v Chelsea – Combined XI

Spurs and Chelsea are two teams that have rarely ever gotten along. But the significance of this intra-capital derby has increased as the two paths intertwined in recent years.

Smugness and resentment have grown in equal measure on either side of the derby from the moment a certain Russian oligarch decided to pick blue over white. But with a new era dawning over Stamford Bridge – and the turbulence that accompanies it – Spurs find themselves 11 points and 6 places clear in the Premier League table.

There’s still a lot of football left to play in the Premier League season, though the tides sit firmly in the Lilywhites’ favour. Let’s see if our combined XI will do the same. 

Goalkeeper: Kepa Arrizabalaga – Chelsea

Life is all about rolling with the punches and taking the opportunities when they present themselves. And Kepa knows exactly what it feels like.

Having cut a frustrated figure since the Frank Lampard days for a price tag he had nothing to do with, most opposition attacks centred on his slender frame and helped to paint this image that he was unsuited to the hustle and bustle of the Premier League. That infamous substitution spat with Maurizio Sarri didn’t help matters either.

However, an unexpected injury to Edouard Mendy brought him the chance he needed for redemption under his third permanent manager at the Bridge. He’ll be wanting to add to his 3 clean sheets in the last 5 games when faced with Spurs in a few days’ time.

For the team in front of Kepa, we’re going to go with the formation that suits the available players and Conte’s trusted 3-4-3 formation does that better than one over-reliant on the presence of full-backs. The first of the three centre-backs picks itself.

Centre-Back: Thiago Silva – Chelsea

Today’s fans might be too young to remember Marcel Desailly in a Chelsea shirt, and those that can might curse their luck at not being able to witness him in his prime.

The same could initially be said of Thiago Silva, though it’s fair to say that he’d dispelled the myth that he’s a shadow of the player he once was. One clean sheet for every three appearances in the Premier League is a testament to the ability he maintains.

His calmness and experience has been – and will continue to be – invaluable as Chelsea threaten to take over with their fresh-faced squad, and it will be a fitting end to what has been a magnificent career limited only by the 38-year-old’s imagination.

Centre-Back: Cristian Romero – Tottenham Hotspur

Picking up the mantle from compatriot Erik Lamela, Romero cuts the fiery Argentinian figure who does well to ruffle a few opposition feathers whenever he starts.

But when he isn’t doing that, he’s a brave and combative centre-back who helped Lionel Messi win the World Cup. 

Centre-Back: Benoit Badiashile – Chelsea

It was going to take a lot for one of Chelsea’s (many) January signings to make their way onto this list, but few can begrudge the inclusion of Benoit Badiashile.

Countering the inability of most commentators to pronounce his name correctly, the centre-back has formed an articulate and critical piece of this makeshift Chelsea backline. 

Since joining, Chelsea have conceded only 2 goals in the 5 he has played alongside the aforementioned Thiago Silva; clearly making up for the youthful exuberance and confrontational element that the Brazilian’s game now lacks. For now, he poses a strong presence against the tide, and is a key marker for their future underneath Todd Boehly.

Central Midfielder: Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg – Tottenham Hotspur

This season has been a renaissance mission for the much-maligned midfielder.

Out of the two chosen, he would naturally take up a shallower position in the midfield, which I’m sure he won’t mind as he’s played there more often than not this season.

When there, we’ve seen the best of what the mechanical Dane has to offer. Their unlikely home win against Manchester City a few weeks back is the stand-out performance of his season so far, and is almost worthy in itself of inclusion in this team.

Central Midfielder: Enzo Fernandez – Chelsea

If that assist toward Joao Felix is a sign of things to come from Enzo Fernandez in a Chelsea shirt, then I’m sure few will feel the need to remind us all of his price tag.

Thus far, they’ve spent the equivalent of over €30m per Premier League performance, yet the promising Argentine has played every minute possible. There, we’ve seen glimpses of what had earned him the World Cup Young Player of the Tournament award in Qatar.

With every passing moment, he’s beginning to mature into that deep-lying playmaker role and it seems only a matter of time before he helps to turn the Chelsea tide. Perhaps a grudge match for a tenuous top four race is what’s needed to get that out of him.

Right-Midfielder: Reece James – Chelsea

It’s the debate that will rage on: who is England’s best right-back? As far as I can see, the general consensus seems to edge Reece James ahead of his competitors. His positional versatility and balance in both elements of the game make him the strongest choice here too.

Since breaking through three years ago, James is a few shy of 100 appearances in a Chelsea shirt – a feat he would have breezed through had his injury record been kinder to him. Nevertheless, his style has been made clear during that time.

Very solid in a one-on-one situation, with the forethought and versatility to keep his opponents guessing, Emerson Royal doesn’t come close. It also appears that he looks set to return to the squad after missing out on the Southampton loss.

Left-Midfielder: Ivan Perisic – Tottenham Hotspur

Quite frankly, this helps to remove the need for me to pick a left-back. A position ravaged by injuries and poor form. Where Perisic has been the reliable force Spurs have needed.

Roughly an assist for every three games in all competitions, many rival fans scoffed at the ‘predictable’ acquisition of a ‘long-gone’ Perisic by the ‘dinosaur’ that is Antonio Conte. But in reality, he knows what he likes, and he likes Ivan Perisic for good reason.

A younger version might be better at tracking up and down the lines, but the elder one we can all see brings a level of maturity and experience that Conte knew his team required.

Left-Winger: Heung-Min Son – Tottenham Hotspur

There’s a certain dichotomy about Heung-Min Son. Off the field, he cuts a humble figure standing against the realm of braggadocious footballers, but on the field, he’s a different animal. At least, he usually is.

4 goals and 3 assists in 21 appearances this season is below average at best for most players, never mind for one of the most talented wingers in the league.

Having crossed the big 3-0 barrier not long ago, it would appear that Son is slowly coming to the end of what would be considered his ‘prime years’ in that position, but with a goal this past weekend and the relentless support of Spurs fans behind him, perhaps we can see a rekindling of that form sooner rather than later.

Right-Winger: Dejan Kulusevski – Tottenham Hotspur

Highly technical, good with a moving ball, deceptively quick. We can file him away under one of Daniel Levy’s more shrewd acquisitions alongside Rodrigo Bentancur. Who would have also quite easily taken a spot in this side had he been available for selection.

He is helped slightly by the fact that there aren’t many rivals to his position on the right wing in blue, but even then he has more G/A than Son or Sterling in only 15 games on the opposite flank. When he plays, so do Spurs. When he doesn’t, he’s sorely missed.

Speaking of which…

Striker: Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur

Do we really need to go much further into this?

It’s Harry Kane. Harry Edward Kane. MBE.

Tottenham’s greatest ever goalscorer, the only active striker to be in the Premier League 200 club and arguably the best all-round forward in world football. Easy. 

Read – Iconic Performances: Arsenal legend Bergkamp scores THAT hat-trick at Leicester

Read Also – Eight of the most memorable games between Man Utd and Barcelona

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