On Saturday, Chelsea and Tottenham meet at White Hart Lane in what promises to be one of the matches of the season so far. This particular London derby has given us some fantastic matches in recent years, and with a serious amount of talent on show for both teams, this weekend’s fixture seems unlikely to be any different. There are a number of intriguing things to consider about the game, so let’s just spend a few minutes thinking about what’s in store for our viewing pleasure.
The two men from Portugal
It’s too easy to point out the similarities between Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas, so I won’t dwell on them for too long. Suffice to say, both Mourinho and Villas-Boas are from similar backgrounds in football terms, and having worked together at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of history between the two.
It’s been a proper old roller coaster for both men since they parted at Internazionale, but the roller coaster appears to have come to a stop with Villas-Boas happy in North London and Mourinho back at his beloved Chelsea. The relationship between the two men appears to have soured somewhat with them reportedly no longer on speaking terms, and this adds extra spice to what is likely to be a real rip roarer of a fixture.
No matter what he says in the press, for his part, AVB will want to prove that he deserves to be out from behind Mourinho’s shadow, and will relish the opportunity to get one over on his former mentor. A victory for Tottenham could indicate a power shift in London, and defeating Mourinho’s Chelsea would certainly endear the 35-year old to the Tottenham fans. Mourinho will be no less keen to assert his own authority, and a good victory over Spurs would certainly make up for what has been a fairly lacklustre start from the Europa League champions so far.
Villas-Boas “welcomes” his old club
There is even more added spice in this fixture when you consider the manner in which Villas-Boas was forced to leave Chelsea in 2012. It was reported that lack of support from the dressing room resulted in the Portuguese’s position becoming untenable, and although he is not a grudge holder, there’s no doubt that a victory for Spurs would taste just that little bit sweeter for AVB.
Since his success with Tottenham, a cross section of Chelsea fans have bemoaned the fact that the 35-year old wasn’t given more time at the Bridge, and with Chelsea failing to impress so far this season, it’s not a massive stretch to say that some fans would prefer the ‘other’ Portuguese manager at their club again. If their ex-manager presides over another loss, the wounds will not heal for a while.
The clubs are very much competing this season, with many tipping Tottenham to challenge for the title, and a victory for the Lilywhites would further strengthen their Premier League chasing credentials.
A contrast of styles
One of the more interesting aspects of this contest is the contrast of footballing styles that we’re likely to see. Whilst his tactics appeared slightly more positive at Madrid, Mourinho is a ‘win at all costs’ type of manager, with the ‘cost’ frequently being positive football. The Portuguese is perhaps the only manager in Europe who would not pick Juan Mata on the basis that he doesn’t track back enough, and this stubborn refusal to allow creative players to shine underlines all there is to dislike about the Mourinho regime.
Mourinho famously complained about Martin Jol’s Tottenham side ‘parking the bus’ in front of the goal when they visited Stamford Bridge in 2004, but his approach is likely to be fairly similar on Saturday given the creative talents available to Spurs. Mourinho doesn’t really seem to believe in wingers, and his Chelsea side will come and try and play as narrowly as possible at White Hart Lane, hoping to squeeze the skill and guile out of the Tottenham side. That’s not to say that Chelsea won’t be after the win, but more that Mourinho will be hoping that his team will be able to safely allow Spurs to attack them and then use the pace and skill of Eden Hazard and Oscar to nick a goal on the counter attack.
In contrast, Villas-Boas will set up his side to win, and – if all goes well – win well. While Mourinho wants his number 10 to be able to defend, his ex-apprentice has set about creating a sturdy enough midfield to allow his forward players to play without worrying too much about their defensive responsibilities. Paulinho and Moussa Dembele charge about more than enough, and this allows the flair players like Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen do what they do best – creating goals. AVB will be expecting a lot from his flair players when Chelsea come to town, and if Eriksen in particular is on form, it could be a long afternoon for the Blues.
The result means a great deal for both clubs
After an iffy start to his second spell as Chelsea boss, Mourinho needs a victory over a big club to affirm himself at the Bridge once again. Usually a darling of the press, his treatment of Mata has received far too much criticism for his liking, and there are plenty questioning whether Jose still has it in him to do the job required. A win over Spurs would tell the world that Jose is back, and would flood back in the confidence that has been seeping out of Stamford Bridge over the last few weeks.
The game is similarly important for Tottenham. For them to be considered as title contenders, they must be able to beat the title contenders, and given that they have already lost to Arsenal this term; this fixture provides another rare opportunity to lay down a marker for the rest of the league. A loss to Chelsea would have plenty proclaiming that all the Spurs optimism has been a false dawn, so it’s really important for AVB and his charges to record a positive result.
Two teams needing to win makes for a great game, and I have a feeling that we could well see one of the best stories of the season unfold at White Hart Lane on Saturday.