Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Can Antonio Conte's Blues Claw Back Spurs in Top Four Race?

Pochettino and Conte
Mauricio Pochettino, left, and Antonio Conte at Wembley Stadium, London, August 20, 2017. Shaun Botterill/Getty

After both teams made their way to the semi-finals of the FA Cup over the weekend (March 17 and 18), Tottenham's trip to Chelsea could prove to be a trial run for the final in May. But neither team will be thinking of that when they meet at Stamford Bridge on April 1.

Chelsea face Southampton next month, and Tottenham have the trickier task of finding their way past Manchester United to reach the final at Wembley on May 19. It took extra-time for Antonio Conte's team to beat Leicester City, while Spurs eased past Swansea City.

Yet, the FA Cup will be put to the back of the two teams' minds over the next fortnight, as the majority of the squads go their separate ways for the international break. And when they return the Premier League will be top of the agenda.

The consistency of Mauricio Pochettino's team since the turn of the year has seen Spurs build a five-point lead over Chelsea. Mind the gap. It was the small implosion in West London in the same period, with Antonio Conte's team winning just three EPL games this calendar year, that has seen Chelsea slip out of the Champions League positions.

They have recovered slightly. There was heart and belief in the last-16 defeat to Barcelona last week and the victory over Leicester on Sunday (March 18) saw Conte's team reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup again—they lost last year's final to Arsenal.

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Harry Kane will not be available to Tottenham having damaged ligaments in his ankle, which will aid Chelsea's pursuit of that coveted fourth spot. But that hasn't harmed Spurs so far, scoring seven goals in the 150 minutes they've been without the England striker, who has 39 goals this season.

Although keen to win his first trophy and silence the critics, Pochettino has insisted it is more than silverware that he wants at Tottenham. "In the cups, you can arrive to the semi-final or final and win, like Swansea [League Cup winners in 2013] or Wigan [FA Cup winners in 2013], who were then relegated," he said, as quoted by the Daily Telegraph. "That is not going to help create a winning mentality, to win this type of trophy.

"This type of competition is about enjoying the process and about enjoying when you lift the trophy, but it's not going to give a different level or status as winning the Premier League or the Champions League to put the club on a higher level."

So Spurs will need to avoid defeat to Chelsea, the only team to win at Wembley in the Premier League this season, at Stamford Bridge if they are to strengthen hopes of a top-four finish. Tottenham's run-in is far from easy. They host Manchester City and travel to Manchester United, with 2016 champions Leicester City visiting Wembley for the final game of the season.

Chelsea's only truly challenging fixture in the remaining weeks of the season is the visit of Liverpool to Stamford Bridge in the penultimate game of the season. By then, if they haven't beaten Tottenham, if Tottenham have struggled against the Manchester duo, the race for the top four could be set for a photo finish.