Not even Andre Villas-Boas’ first return to Stamford Bridge since his brutal sacking 14 months ago can overshadow the fact that Tottenham Hotspur’s trip across London to face Chelsea looks like it is a do-or-die Champions League shoot-out for his new team against his old one.
AVB might be attracting some headlines ahead of his first match in the away dug-out at the ground where his reputation took such a battering, and he readily admits the game will not be a ‘very special occasion’ for him.
But even by the press’ standards of blowing things out of proportion, that is just a sideshow to the main event.
Under normal circumstances, everything in the build-up would revolve around the former Porto coach’s unhappy nine-month spell in SW1, but both teams have bigger fish to fry on Wednesday and even if the Chelsea fans aren’t particularly fond of the manager in either dug-out, it looks like only one of them will be securing a top-four finish for his club this month.
Unfortunately for AVB, that manager doesn’t look like it will be him. His fifth-placed Spurs side are three points behind Chelsea, who currently occupy third place, and two behind Arsenal in the coveted fourth spot.
The Gunners have played a game more than the teams that sandwich them, but with Tottenham and Chelsea’s game in hand being this one against each other, it is getting to crunch time for Spurs, who realistically must do what they haven’t done since 1990 if they are to finish in the top four: win at Stamford Bridge.
On the same weekend that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Gary Lineker (who else?) scored in a Spurs win and it has been 25 long matches in league and cup (nine draws and 18 defeats) since a Tottenham manager beat their old foe away from home, and I don’t see much changing in midweek.
In fact, I fully expect Chelsea to all but confirm their place in the top four with a victory, and at 87/100 that is what I’ll be on.
The draw is 13/5 and the away win is 29/10, but the Blues have clicked into gear at the right time and they can confirm their superiority over their north London rivals.
It’s gone quiet as far as Rafa Benitez and the home crowd is concerned, which only means one thing – Chelsea are winning games.
Already into next week’s Europa League final, since clawing back a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United, the Blues have won ten of their 14 matches in all competitions, hitting 28 goals, and they are playing as well as anybody in the division.
Chelsea have won five of their last six games (which would have been six had it not been for a 97th-minute equaliser from Luis Suarez) and at home they have become impenetrable.
Benitez’s side have won 11 of the last 13 games at Stamford Bridge in league and cup, drawing the other two and scoring 30 goals in the process.
It is sensational form to have as the campaign draws to a close, and they can use their extra nous – there are many players in the squad used to winning these pressure matches – to take advantage of a Spurs team that have been ropey on the road this year.
Tottenham have won just three of the 11 away games they have played in 2013, losing at Leeds United, Liverpool and Inter Milan while failing to beat QPR, Norwich City, Lyon, Basel and Wiga Athletic.
Their defence has kept just one clean sheet in their last ten fixtures and have let in 14 goals in their last six away games – hardly the form you want to be taking to free-scoring Chelsea.
And although it has become a bit of a joke, the fact remains that if Gareth Bale doesn’t score it can be difficult to imagine where a Spurs goal will come from.
Bale has notched in Tottenham’s last ten wins, and if Chelsea can keep the PFA Player of the Year quiet, half the battle will have been won.
But even if Bale produces a piece of magic, and we all know he is well capable of that, I still think Chelsea will be too strong for Spurs and Benitez’s boys, confident and in-form, have to be the call here at 87/100 to give AVB another miserable Stamford Bridge experience.