Derby is D-Day for Chelsea

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Football News

Perhaps not playing for the prize they envisaged at the start of the season, but nevertheless Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur knowing the London derby will prove to be as significant a game as any in the remainder of this Premier League season.

Four wins out of five since the appointment of Roberto Di Matteo, coupled with Tottenham being found out by the division's elite, means in many ways Saturday lunchtime's match-up could work as a straight shoot-out for the fourth Champions League spot.

Arsenal's six successive wins, and subsequent run-in, which could see them play a part in the title race when they face Manchester City over the Easter weekend, makes them clear favourites to snatch third.

Whatever the result in west London, the Gunners' position in the top four is likely to be strengthened, especially with toothless Aston Villa visiting the Emirates Stadium this weekend.

After a mini-revival since Andre Villas-Boas' sacking in early March, Chelsea face a do or die moment against Spurs. Victory would not only swing the top four race back towards them, but go some way to justifying the sacking of the Portuguese boss.

Roman Abramovich was rightly canned for sacking the 34-year-old just eight months after his move from Porto, with his desire for long-term progression being superseded by the club's shortcomings this season.

Abramovich's faith in Villas-Boas is unlikely to have come with the guarantee that not qualifying for the Champions League would earn him more time; not a sign of development in the eyes of the owner. If that contributed to his reasoning for sacking him, then victory tomorrow would go a long way to vindicating the Russian's controversial decision.

Furthermore, Chelsea are unlikely to get a better chance to peg back Harry Redknapp's side this season. After Spurs stopped the rot on Wednesday by snatching a draw with Stoke City, the Blues can ill-afford to give their rivals a foothold as they aim to wriggle out of a tough spot.

History is at least on Chelsea's side, having won 16 of the last 24 meetings between the two sides in all competitions at Stamford Bridge. A 17th victory, and thereby continuing Tottenham's wretched run, which reads one win in the last six league games, would give Chelsea the momentum and initiative in the race for fourth.

A five, or even eight point gap would be the final nail in the coffin, leaving a club who financially can't afford to be out of the glitz of the Champions League, attempting to seduce a new manager and fresh players without the carrot of Europe's biggest prize. Saturday, is D-Day for Chelsea.

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Tottenham Hotspur
European News
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Roberto Di Matteo

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