In their first match since seeing their hopes of a first English league title for 55 years bite the dust, Tottenham will now turn their attention towards making absolutely sure of second place and have a tricky game at home to Southampton on Sunday.
Although they have just come up short, it has been a terrific season for Tottenham and under the inspired guidance of manager Mauricio Pochettino only look set to progress further. A sustained challenge for the title has been well beyond the expectations the club had back in August and a massively talented squad has developed to a much greater extent that was surely anticipated. In the final reckoning, Spurs have probably just drawn too many and failed to match the efficiency of new champions Leicester City.
But it looked for all the world as if they would have taken the race to this weekend, having established a two-goal lead at half-time against Chelsea last time out. They had appeared very secure at the back, but did not reckon on the impact of substitute Eden Hazard, who turned the game almost single-handedly and went on to score the equaliser in what was often a bad-tempered affair. Indeed, on some occasions the tension boiled over into ugly scenes that continued after the final whistle.
After Chelsea had levelled the scores Spurs totally lost their discipline, scything into a succession of crude challenges that led to a Premier League record nine yellow cards being brandished their way. Mousa Dembele was the biggest sinner with a horrific attempted eye gouge on Diego Costa, so it was such a shame to see players who have covered themselves in glory all season see their ambitions evaporate on such a low note.
They are unlikely to get much peace here either from a Southampton side that is in magnificent form and still eyeing a place in the top six, having swept their way past a below-par Manchester City last weekend with the help of some incisive passing and clinical finishing in the final third. The record top-flight points tally of last season could also be surpassed, going to show what a job manager Ronald Koeman is doing and why he is constantly linked with a move elsewhere.
This term the Dutchman has had to guide his players through some tricky spells, but they are certainly firing on all cylinders now with Dusan Tadic having returned to his creative best. The Saints are also a much different proposition when Sadio Mane is on top form, and he sure is at present as a confidently taken hat-trick against Man City has taken his tally to six in as many games. They will look to capitalise on any drop in Tottenham’s intensity levels.
Dembele begins a six-match ban for Tottenham, who are also without fellow midfielder Dele Alli through suspension.
Graziano Pelle has lost favour at Southampton in recent weeks, so will hope to return to the squad for this one. There are no new injury concerns for Koeman.
Last Meeting: A tight game in October 2014 was decided five minutes before half-time by Christian Eriksen’s solitary goal for Tottenham; the Dane firing past Fraser Forster after being set up by Nacer Chadli. Southampton’s best chance fell to Sadio Mane, who could only shoot wide from close range, but the hosts held on for a welcome victory that lifted them to within two points of their opponents.