Mar 16, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT
Tomorrow afternoon, London plays host to not one but two crackling derby matches.
At 3pm GMT Tottenham have to pick themselves up after their Thursday night Italian job and host Fulham at White Hart Lane, while an hour later and nine miles across the capital, Chelsea welcomes West Ham United to Stamford Bridge.
Both these matches will have huge implications in the race for qualification to next season’s Uefa Champions League.
Spurs currently sit in third place, five points behind spluttering Manchester City and two points ahead of Chelsea however the Blues have played a match less. Arsenal and Everton lurk dangerously close just four and six points behind Spurs respectively. If goal difference becomes a factor, Chelsea (+26) and Arsenal (+23) looked to be in pole position.
In north London, the odds favor Spurs who have only lost once to the Cottagers in their last 10 meetings but the toll of Thursday night and their dramatic extra-time win over Inter Milan will surely catch up with them mentally and physically at some point in the 90 minutes.
Andre Villas-Boas will have to use his resources extremely wisely. The return to the starting XI of top scorer, Gareth Bale should be the boost that the team needs.
Chelsea find themselves in a similar situation to Spurs as they were also pushed to the maximum in the Europa League by Steaua Bucharest. With a fixture list that is beginning to get exceedingly busy, Rafael Benitez will be hoping for a smoother afternoon than the one he experienced at Upton Park.
Back in December, his Blues team lost 3-1 to the Hammers for the first time since May 2003. The Spaniard who’s contract is up at the end of the season continues to be attacked by his own supporters and he must be aware that unless Champions League football is secured, his resume will take a battering.
What to watch for…
Fernando Torres – can he score in two consecutive matches (17 goals in all comps)
Frank Lampard – will he bite the hand that used to feed him (186 apps for West Ham)
Gareth Bale – The de facto player of the year (7 goals in last 6 BPL matches)
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