Once more unto the Bridge


Sunday August 14th, 4:30pm

Chelsea @ 13/10
Spurs @ 11/5
Draw @ 12/5
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The 2022/23 Premier League season is now under way.  And, despite trying valiantly to resist the urge, a lot has been said and done in response to the first round of fixtures.

Conclusions have been swiftly drawn, statements have been sweepingly decreed, and Manchester United have been laughed at by opposing fans with the ferocity of a cackle of intoxicated hyenas.

But following the introductory, light-hearted comic relief at Old Trafford, Gameweek 2 will see the mood shift towards the serious.  Because it won’t be pratfalls and gimmicky clown antics when Tottenham Hotspur return, once more, to the scene of the infamous Battle of Stamford Bridge.

The incendiary 2016 Chelsea v Spurs clash was pivotal in the title-race that season – the resulting 2-2 draw gifting Leicester City an unlikely trophy.  And it was a landmark game in terms of ill-discipline too – Tottenham’s 9 (NINE) yellow cards established a new Premier League record for a single team.

This wasn’t the first time Tottenham had forgotten how to play football in West London, though – their record at Stamford Bridge in the top flight is remarkably poor.  The most recent victory took place in 2018: a 3-1 triumph against a Conte-managed Chelsea, including a brace from a rampant Dele Alli…which makes it sound like it took place a long time ago…

But, prior to that, the last time Tottenham beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the League was back in – *steps into time-machine* – February 1990.  Nayim and Gascoigne pulling the strings, Gary Lineker nodding-in a late winner…which makes it sound like it took place in black and white, and featured players sporting walrus moustaches and enormous shorts…

However, Antonio Conte’s happy few, his band of brothers, justified a rare sense of pre-season optimism in last week’s destruction of Southampton.  This meeting against Chelsea may have come earlier than he would have liked, but he will surely be able to – like Henry V on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt – oratorically rouse his troops into a state of brimming confidence ahead of Sunday’s key clash.

Another similarity between the English Army of 1415 and Tottenham Hotspur is that they are also both led in the field by a charismatic Harry…

OK, I can’t, with a straight face, describe Harry Kane as ‘charismatic’ but he is, erm, a recognised striker…which is something Chelsea currently lack.

Although the transfer window will remain ajar for another couple of weeks, Chelsea have thus far sold two forwards, in Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, and brought in none.  Obviously, neither player successfully delivered on the promise of scoring lots of goals last season, but The Blues will surely need someone to fill those shirts and stand optimistically in the box?

Only one Chelsea player scored more than 10 Premier League goals last time round – Mason Mount, who bundled in 11 from midfield.  Perhaps Thomas Tuchel expects Raheem Sterling to make up this striking deficit?  Though he, too, has posted smaller-than-usual tallies in his previous two campaigns, could a boost in Sterling confidence lead to a rise in goal-quantity inflation?

Not to be confused with the Battle of Agincourt, which followed Henry V’s above-referenced stirring speech, the original Battle of Stamford Bridge took place in 1066 and was fought between armies helmed by two other line-leading ‘Harrys’ – England’s King Harold II and the Norwegian King Harald.

It was a gruelling, bloody conflict – which England won in decisive fashion in extra-time – and is generally cited as a key marker of the end of the Viking Age.

But another hungry, imposing, marauding Scandinavian has lately arrived on our shores.  Erling Haaland successfully lived up to his billing last Sunday, and will seek to continue his compelling campaign of pillage and plunder and revenge this weekend…on the beaches of Bournemouth.  Let battle commence!

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