Chelsea will face their biggest test of the season against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, manager Antonio Conte said as his team chase Premier League history.
Chelsea, who finished 10th in the league last season, are five points clear at the top and will arrive at White Hart Lane seeking to better Arsenal’s record of 13 consecutive victories in a season.
“It’s another challenge, another type of football to face (from Stoke) because Tottenham like to play from the back. They like to put a lot of pressure on when you are in possession,” Conte said.
“We have to prepare very well because this game for sure will be very, very tough for us, but also for them. For sure (this match) is the biggest test. I think for us now every game is the biggest test.”
Chelsea showed great resilience in their 4-2 win over Stoke City but Conte expected a different challenge from their next opponents.
“Tottenham is a good team. Last season they could have won the title and this season they have a stronger team. For sure we will see a good game,” the Italian added.
Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino is set to become the first coach to have a second attempt at beating Chelsea since their winning run began, having already suffered a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier this season. And Vertonghen believes his manager has been working hard on a formula to halt Chelsea’s momentum.
“The gaffer spends a lot of time analysing them. He prepares for the game and the way we should play and in what shape,” Vertonghen said.
“We see some videos and all these tactical things - but that’s our secret. I think the gaffer has a plan.” Spurs currently occupy fourth place in the table, having climbed into the Champions League positions for the first time since October courtesy of victory over Watford on New Year’s Day.
Vertonghen and Kyle Walker both missed the game at Vicarage Road due to suspension but the Belgian defender is convinced Spurs have proved they are capable of coping without key players.
“With the new signings that came in I think we have a very strong squad. It’s the strongest since I’ve been here.
“We can play different systems. Harry Kane has been out. Toby [Alderweireld] has been out, it’s a lot of important layers we’ve missed. But the guys that have played for them have done brilliantly.
“I think that’s the strength of this team now. We can cope with players not being able to play and we can always play a strong team.
“We can cope with several games a week as well so we feel very strong and very confident,” Vertonghen insisted.
Pochettino has experimented with a three-man defence himself this season, allowing Danny Rose and Walker to excel in wing-back roles.