When Tottenham host Chelsea on Sunday, it’s not just Spurs’ first home game of the season, but their first game since temporarily relocating to Wembley.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men have a woeful record when playing under the arch, winning just one out of their last nine matches there – including a 4-2 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final last season.
As well as being a clash between two fierce London rivals, it’s also the first meeting of two challengers for this season’s Premier League title.
Will either land a significant blow so early in the season – but how important really are matches against the top sides when it comes to deciding the trophy?
As SmartBets’ research shows, if Tottenham are to go on and win the title this season, they’ll need to sort out their Wembley woes – as home form is vital to winning the Premier League.
In the last five seasons, championship winnings sides have picked up 48.4 points at home, compared to just 38.8 on the road.
Broken down, this equates to 15.4 wins in front of their own fans, 2.2 draws, and 1.4 defeats – instead of 11.4, 4.6 and 3.0 in away games respectively.
League-winning sides score 10.8 goals per season more at home, and concede 5.8 fewer than in away matches – meaning Tottenham certainly won’t be able to rely on their away form should they hope to lift the trophy in May.
Tottenham’s Wembley record is certainly a shaky one – they’re only averaging 1 goal per game in those nine fixtures, as well as 2.1 goals conceded per match, and a win rate of just 11%.
If they keep those numbers up they can kiss goodbye to a maiden Premier League title win – with the averages of the last five champions coming in at 2.46 goals/game, 0.8 goals/conceded, and a win rate of 81% when playing at home.
One common belief when trying to win the league is having to beat the teams around you, but Liverpool disproved that last season.
However, the Reds only finished in fourth in the final league table last season, in part due to inconsistency against the ‘other’ 14 clubs.
On the other hand, despite losing to Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Man United, Antonio Conte’s Blues ended up lifting the trophy, finishing top of the table by seven points.
That was almost solely down to Chelsea’s ruthlessness against the sides beneath them – failing to win just three out of 28 matches against the bottom 14.
That would mean defeat to Spurs on Sunday wouldn’t be a disaster for Conte – though after losing to Burnley on the opening day, and with pressure building over Chelsea’s failure to land their key transfer targets, you certainly wouldn’t want to be in the Blues dressing room post-match if they did.
Interestingly, Tottenham both scored the most goals, and conceded the fewest against the bottom 14 of any of the top six last year, but couldn’t convert that into crucial points.
While a lot of the talk in the build-up to this match is the absence of Diego Costa from the Chelsea ranks, SmartBets’ research shows he might not be the biggest miss for the Blues.
Chelsea’s strikers netted 28 times last year, well below the mark expected from a title-winning side, which usually boasts 38 goals from their forwards.
Instead, the Blues were fired to the trophy thanks to contributions from elsewhere, including midfield (40, compared to the average of 31.2) and defence (15, compared to the average of 10.4).
The defence stat is an interesting one to pick out, considering the lack of goals all of their rivals managed from the back last season.
Liverpool were the only other team to hit double figures, though still fell just below the title-winning average, with Man City (7), Arsenal (6), Tottenham (5) and Man United (3) all failing to chip in with goals from their defenders.
With David Luiz hitting the net against Burnley, Chelsea’s defence is already off the mark for the season, and in the absence of Costa and Eden Hazard, Conte must hope his team is able to offer a genuine goal threat from all across the pitch on Sunday.
It certainly offers food for thought for Pochettino too – though with left-back Ben Davies netting against Newcastle, it could be something Spurs have worked on already.
Managers of all sides chasing the league could certainly do worse than to follow the blueprint of the other title-winning sides, with strong home form, consistency against lower-ranked teams, and goals throughout the team a surefire way to Premier League success.