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Tottenham v Chelsea: Christian Eriksen and Willian are free-kick masters – will either prove the match winner?


There is still no more satisfying sight in football than a player confidently dispatching a free kick into the top corner from 25 yards.

On Sunday, two of the most renowned dead-ball specialists in the modern game will go toe-to-toe as Tottenham welcome Chelsea to White Hart Lane – a match you can hear exclusively live on talkSPORT from 12pm BST.

Tottenham star Christian Eriksen’s prowess from set pieces has been evident for some time and his Chelsea counterpart Willian has emerged from nowhere this season to blistering effect.

Willian, 27, boasts some miraculous statistics this term. While the Premier League champions continue to flounder, at times and often on his own, he has excelled. Compared to last season, where the Brazilian recorded just two goals and four assists all season, he has already got on the scoresheet six times – all from free kicks – and created two goals for his team-mates this term.

Those six goals have seen him top the free kick accuracy charts across Europe by some distance. His nearest challenger is Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanic – widely regarded as the current dead ball master – who has four goals.

Willian’s proficiency, particularly in the Champions League, is quite extraordinary. He alone is accountable for four of the six goals scored from free kicks in the competition at a success rate of 80 per cent.

And those four strikes, the latest coming against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday, have come from just five attempts, compared to the rest of the competitors who have mustered just two goals between them from 94 efforts.

In fact, the winger’s record of six free kicks this season in all competitions is the same as Frank Lampard, Juan Mata and Oscar managed between them for Chelsea since 2011.

It makes for startling reading and Tottenham will have to be increasingly aware of conceding cheap fouls within shooting range of Hugo Lloris’s goal.

But Spurs themselves, as Swansea found out the hard way, know Eriksen is just as capable. He sits just behind Pjanic in the European free kick rankings and four adrift of Willian, but his overall set piece delivery gives the Dane a different edge.

His seven assists this season dwarfs the Brazilian’s two, with Eriksen’s corners and crosses from wide positions frequently finding a team-mate’s head. He may not be as blockbuster as Willian, but the 23-year-old quietly goes about his business like a ruthless assassin.

Chelsea’s biggest concern, therefore, may come indirectly through Eriksen’s pinpoint accuracy, particularly with the in-form Toby Alderweireld to aim for.

It’s a London derby with an added edge this year. Can Chelsea avenge last season’s 5-3 defeat at the Lane? Can Spurs maintain their brilliant unbeaten run as they march towards the top four?

Eriksen and Willian are likely to play a pivotal role either way. It may only take a single moment of magic to separate the two sides…



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