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 By Ben Pearce

Can Tottenham finally exorcise Stamford Bridge demons vs. Chelsea ?

It feels like a familiar scenario for Tottenham -- first Arsenal, now Chelsea. For the second time this month manager Mauricio Pochettino's side are visiting bitter and in-form London rivals on the back of a demoralising Champions League defeat, probably feeling the clash has come at a bad time. The portents are certainly ominous for the team from White Hart Lane, whichever way you look at it.

Spurs have not secured a league victory at Stamford Bridge for 26 years, and even when they led 2-0 last season they were unable to finish the job.

Chelsea have certainly improved since then and now sit top of the league after winning their past six league games without conceding a single goal.

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They have been particularly imperious and prolific at home, winning their past three games at the Bridge by a 12-0 aggregate scoreline, beating champions Leicester (3-0), sixth-placed Manchester United (4-0) and seventh-placed Everton (5-0).

Conversely, Spurs have won just one of their past nine games in all competitions, and five of their past seven goals have been penalties.

While Chelsea have had six days off after their latest victory at Middlesbrough, Pochettino and his players were in action midweek in Monaco. And, having stated before that game that he was unsure whether Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele would be able to play for the full 90 minutes on the continent, the manager played Kane and Alli throughout, while Dembele came off after 65 minutes. 

Then there is the defence. Chelsea have been watertight lately but a makeshift Tottenham back line looked very vulnerable in midweek -- and although Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker will surely return to the rearguard on Saturday, the visitors are missing both of their left-backs.

Danny Rose is suspended and his deputy Ben Davies is injured so there will be an awkward reshuffle which will leave Vertonghen, Kevin Wimmer or Kieran Trippier in the role. None of those options look favourable -- and Pochettino also seems unclear on the best system to use.

For all of these reasons, Chelsea will be favourites to beat Spurs. But, then again, so were Arsenal, who had won 10 of their 11 previous games and scored seven times in two games prior to facing Pochettino's side a few weeks ago.

That clash at the Emirates on November 6 can give the Tottenham faithful some hope, because they went into a tough game on a low ebb and raised their game, fighting back from a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw.

While they have been hugely disappointing in the Champions League, it has proved unwise to bet against Spurs in the Premier League.

Diego Costa
Mousa Dembele was right in the thick of last season's violent derby, receiving a six-match ban for scratching Diego Costa.

There is a reason they are the only unbeaten team in the top flight and they showed it again on Saturday when they turned a 2-1 deficit against West Ham into a 3-2 lead with a dramatic late turnaround. It was the fifth time this season that they had come from behind to get a result in the league.

They will need to show that character and resilience again this weekend, but there will be no shortage of motivation as Tottenham return to the scene of the infamous Battle of the Bridge in May.

While the rivalry with Arsenal is traditionally stronger, it would be understandable if Spurs' current manager, players and even fans have a greater dislike for their Chelsea counterparts at the moment.

Indeed, Rose says this showdown at Stamford Bridge is the first game he looked out for when the fixtures were announced in the summer, and that he is hugely disappointed to be missing it.

The last meeting was an ugly and ill-tempered affair, with nine Tottenham players being booked -- an unwanted club record -- and two mass brawls, one of them resulting in a six-match domestic suspension for Dembele.

Spurs were the title contenders and they had a two-goal lead at half-time, but they allowed themselves to be dragged down to Chelsea's level and got involved in a street fight, which they lost -- and in doing so they also lost their chance to win the crown.

Calmer heads will be needed this time. But, since the roles have been reversed -- Antonio Conte's outfit are the in-form side while Tottenham are struggling -- it might also be worth turning the tables tactically.

No one wants to see a repeat of some of the vengeful challenges that flew in back in May, or a similar card count, and Pochettino's visitors will need to be more creative, incisive and clinical when possible. But, as the Blues have shown, there are canny ways to limit an opponent's extra flair and level the playing field.

Given their disadvantages, in terms of form, freshness and the absence of key personnel, it would arguably suit Spurs to turn up the heat again in Saturday's contest and draw their high-flying hosts into another full-blooded derby battle which is as much about physicality as skill -- just as Chelsea did so effectively almost seven months ago.

Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.

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