Battle of the Bridge 2 sees pressure spun on Chelsea in top-four tussle

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The Blues must control their emotions during a crucial derby date, with Tottenham having previously offered a perfect example of what not to do

It was in early May 2016 when Tottenham suffered a collective nervous breakdown at Stamford Bridge, with a side that had played beautiful football all season losing the plot and their heads in a 2-0 defeat which handed Leicester City a stunning Premier League title triumph. 

Mauricio Pochettino's side stood on the verge of breaking a derby curse, with a first win at Stamford Bridge since 1990 well within reach, but they imploded in the most dramatic of fashions. A sorry record which has dragged on to this day now reads: 27 games, 19 defeats, eight draws.

'The Battle of the Bridge' is a contest which will go down in Premier League history - stunning goals, dirty tackles, 12 yellow cards, eye gouges, snot flicking and a touchline melee. Egos exploded on both sides, but it was Tottenham who lost control to offer further ammunition to those quick to write them off as "bottlers."

That tag is perhaps a bit harsh, but the reality is that Leicester held firm while Spurs' wait for a first league crown since 1961 continues. The Lilywhites can, however, take heart from the fact that on Sunday, as they prepare to return to west London, the pressure will this time be all on Chelsea. 

The rivalry which exploded almost two years ago has subsided due to a mutual respect between Pochettino and Antonio Conte, but the emotion remains in a crucial fixture. Chelsea currently sit fifth in the Premier League table, five points behind Tottenham and the final Champions League spot. 

Chelsea have a home game against Liverpool to come and are 10 points behind the Merseyside club, who have played two games more, but it could be too big of an ask to overturn either the Reds or Spurs if they lose on Sunday. There are only eight games left in which to bridge that gap, and the Europa League beckons for the Blues should they fall short.

Chelsea are a team that has historically handled the pressure, but this season feels different. The club still seems to be rebuilding from their 10th-place finish of 2015-16, with the average age of the squad being driven down. 

A much-debated transfer policy has been a distraction for players and head coach at times this season, with it fair to say that defeats to Burnley and Bournemouth in August and January were, at least partially, down to confusion off the field. 

That is because four of the eight players Chelsea eventually signed over the course of summer and winter windows arrived on deadline day, leaving Conte short in the aforementioned fixtures. Furthermore, five of the eight came in either injured or having just recovered from a spell on the sidelines.

This sense of frustration felt by the manager over transfer business has, at times, translated onto the pitch. 

Alvaro Morata, Chelsea

Conte's two most expensive signings from 2017 have not yet delivered, with Alvaro Morata misfiring and Tiemoue Bakayoko earning more cards than plaudits, but his side need to call upon history to show that Tottenham remain "the bottlers".

Tottenham have already conquered Arsenal, as they aim to change two decades of being dominated by other London clubs in the league, and are now scrapping for Chelsea's status of the capital city's top club. 

Christian Eriksen Tottenham Hotspur

A Chelsea win could symbolise a putting of Spurs in their place, but defeat would be a bitter pill to swallow as those in north London lay down a marker . 

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In the long term, Chelsea must end the chaos of hiring and firing their head coaches, but for now it would be enough for the club to merely scrape into the top four.

They can look at the game from 2016 for inspiration, with it clear that they cannot afford to lose their heads.

The Battle of the Bridge 2 is going to be the biggest game of the season for Chelsea, and that's even with an FA Cup semi-final and another potential shot at major silverware to come.

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