There are some rivalries that make complete sense when you hear about them, such as the North London Derby, that is Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal. There are others, though, that don’t seem quite as clear, with the one between Chelsea and Spurs fitting into that category. Obviously the fact that they’re both London teams adds a geographical twist to things, but to many it has always felt like the two clubs have got bigger fish to fry. In spite of this, though, the rivalry between the teams has been a bitter one at times, with matches regularly having fireworks.
A survey conducted in 2012 found that Chelsea fans thought of Tottenham as their biggest rival, whilst Spurs fans put Chelsea second behind Arsenal. That is entirely understandable, of course, given the long-standing hatred of those two clubs, but it is suggestive of a situation in which there is no love lost when the teams go up against one another. The rivalry itself really kicked off after the 1967 FA Cup final, but the mere fact that they’re both based in London would be enough for many of the supporters to have a hatred for the other side even without that.
Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur first played each other in the league at Stamford Bridge on 18th December, 1909 with Chelsea winning 2-1. Yet it is the FA Cup final of 1967 that is widely regarded as being the moment that the rivalry really began. Often dubbed the ‘Cockney Cup Final’, it was the first time that two teams from London had gone up against one another in the final of the competition, giving it some extra spice before a ball was kicked. In the end, Spurs ran out 2-1 winners in front of around 100,000 people inside Wembley, getting first blood.
Things went a step further in the 1974-1975 season, thanks in no small part to the fact that the two sides were fighting relegation. They went up against one another towards the end of the season, with Spurs in the relegation zone and Chelsea one point ahead of them. Before the game had even started, fans were fighting in the stands and the match had to be delayed. Tottenham eventually won it 2-0, putting them one point ahead of their rivals as it was two points for a win back then. Chelsea failed to win either of their remaining games, allowing Spurs to stay up by a single point.
The Modern Day Rivalry
Whilst the battle between Tottenham and Chelsea is one that dates back decades, it is one that has soured the most in more modern times. In the 1990s, Chelsea were the dominant force in the tie, going unbeaten for more than a decade before earning a 6-1 win at White Hart Lane in the 1997-1998 campaign. In fact, it took a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane in 2006 for Spurs to final end a 16-year wait for Tottenham to get a win against Chelsea in the league, showing not only the West London club’s superiority but also the manner in which Spurs had long struggled against them.
Tottenham are not exactly the most successful club in terms of trophies, which is no small part due to the fact that they have faced their London rivals several times in cup competition. They played each other in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 2007, for example, with Chelsea going 3-1 down before making it 3-3 and earning a replay. In the build-up to the second match there were big clashes between hooligans from both clubs, resulting in as many as ten fans being stabbed. Chelsea won the replay 2-1, knocking Spurs out of the cup competition.
In the January of 2022, the two sides faced each other over two legs in the semi-final of the League Cup. Chelsea won the first leg 2-0 before facing Spurs again a week later. They won that too to defeat their rivals 3-0 on aggregate and make the final of the competition. The cup games were noteworthy in and of themselves, but they then played each other in the Premier League on the 23rd of January, which ended in a 2-0 win to Chelsea. It meant that they had defeated their rivals three times in a month, with the last time a team had done that being more than decade prior.
There is little doubt that the real fireworks between Chelsea and Tottenham have happened on the pitch over the years. There have been some enthralling matches between the sides, which have been must-see events over the years. Here is a look at some of the key ones:
Spurs 2 – Chelsea 1 (1910)
Rival teams don’t often face each other in cup finals, but it is even more rare for them to go up against one another in matches that decide whether one team manages to stay in the league or not. That is exactly what happened at the end of the 1909-1910 campaign, however. It was the last game of the season and both were fighting for survival when they met at White Hart Lane. The winner would remain in Division One, so when Tottenham won 2-1 it consigned Chelsea to relegation. What added insult to injury was the fact that it was a former Chelsea player who scored the winning goal.
Spurs 2 – Chelsea 2 (2016)
Tottenham haven’t managed many Premier League title challenges over the years, so Chelsea took great delight in ending one of them back in 2016. Spurs needed to win in order to keep their battle with Leicester City alive, which looked to be the case when Harry Kane and Son Heung-min put them 2-0 up. Goals from Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard in the second-half saw them match end 2-2, however, and Tottenham’s closest title for the title since they won it in 1961 was over. Players attacked each other on the pitch, with Mousa Dembélé serving a six-match suspension for violent conduct.
Spurs 2 – Chelsea 0 (2017)
Having ended Spurs’ title challenge a year before, Chelsea went into their game against their London rivals in 2017 hoping to extend their winning streak in the Premier League. They had won 13 games in succession when they turned up at White Hart Lane, but Spurs scored twice to take the game away from Chelsea. It took them within five points of the Stamford Bridge club as the paid fought over the top-flight title. In the end, Chelsea finished seen points clear of Tottenham, who once again missed out in the title in spite of their win over their rivals that stopped them from winning a 14th successive match.
Spurs 1 – Chelsea 4 (2023)
If you want to watch a match that sums up the rivalry between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, the game between the two teams on the sixth of November 2023 might well be it. Variously described as ‘chaotic’, ‘madness’ and considered to be one of the ‘most wild, frenetic and mesmeric’ matches in the competition, the Premier League game saw former Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino return to his former club. There were five disallowed goals, with four of them coming in the first-half, as well as two red cards for Tottenham players in a match that finished 4-1 to the away side.