The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs Chelsea
The master against the apprentice™
Top spot is on offer in this lunchtime derby at the Lane, where all the pre-match hype will surround the managers. Andre Villas-Boas was once an assistant to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and Inter Milan before following the Special-cum-Happy One into the Porto and Stamford Bridge hot seats, but AVB is now primed to leave his former stablemate in the shade.
- Aston Villa 0-4 Spurs (LC)
- Cardiff 0-1 Spurs (Prem)
- Spurs 3-0 Tromso (EL)
- Spurs 2-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-0 Spurs (Prem)
- Swindon 0-2 Chelsea (LC)
- Chelsea 2-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-2 Basel (CL)
- Everton 1-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Bayern p2-2 Chelsea (SC)
The 35-year-old has a stellar squad at his disposal having reinvested the 'Gareth Bale Warchest' wisely. And while the displays to date have not been dazzling, Tottenham are the meanest team in Europe, keeping four consecutive clean sheets either side of the North London derby defeat to Arsenal.
Last Sunday's late win at Cardiff was followed by an emphatic 4-0 vanquishing of Aston Villa in midweek, where Villas-Boas made eight changes yet still witnessed the likes of Jermain Defoe (two goals) and Lewis Holtby (three assists) highlight how much strength in depth Spurs have this season.
All is not quite as rosy over in SW6, and if the game ends all square Chelsea will have made the same start as they did in 2007/08 when Mourinho exited after six league matches.
Successes over Fulham and Swindon have helped massage the stress caused by back-to-back defeats, but Blues fans still await a league goal scored by a striker after seeing loaned-out Romelu Lukaku score for Everton last weekend.
Fernando Torres did at least offer glimpses of his old self at Swindon, bagging a goal and an assist. The out-of-favour Juan Mata also impressed, although possibly not enough to oust Oscar.
Chelsea have an imperious record over their rivals, winning 4-2 away in a Saturday lunchtime kick-off in October last season, but will need to show more attacking intent than in their last away outing against a top four contender at Old Trafford.
Aaron Lennon (foot) and Etienne Capoue (ankle) are still sidelined, but Danny Rose may be available for selection. Nacer Chadli made a goalscoring return against Villa after recovering from a hip injury.
Chelsea's midweek win at Swindon came at a cost, with Marco van Ginkel out for six months due to a knee injury and his replacement Ramires suffering a thigh problem. The Brazilian is a major doubt for Saturday.
Key battle: Paulinho vs John Obi Mikel
A clash of the, ahem, goalscoring midfielders after Paulinho's Brazilian wizardry won all three points at Cardiff and John Obi Mikel's first goal for 258 matches finished off Fulham. The Nigerian's defensive dexterity will be back in the spotlight on Saturday, where control of the midfield will go a long way to determining the victor.
Mikel topped the passing charts by a considerable distance against Fulham with 92% accuracy (83 of 90), which included almost as many passes in the attacking third of the pitch as the defensive one.
Paulinho will not offer as much security at the back but will prove a menace in and around the Chelsea penalty area, highlighted by his 6 shots on Cardiff's goal while being the third best passer.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 2-2 Spurs (Prem, May 13)
- Spurs 2-4 Chelsea (Prem, Oct 12)
- Spurs 1-5 Chelsea (FAC, Apr 12)
- Chelsea 0-0 Spurs (Prem. Mar 12)
- Spurs 1-1 Chelsea (Prem, Dec 11)
The former cohorts go head-to-head for the first time and it will be interesting to see what Villas-Boas has up his sleeve for Mourinho, having worked so closely alongside the 'master tactician' in the past.
"Although we've grown apart, I think we are unified by professional respect," AVB told O Jogo earlier this year.
Facts and figures
- Spurs have won only three of their 42 Premier League games against Chelsea.
- Chelsea have not failed to score in three successive Premier League away games since April 2002.
- The last three competitive meetings between Tottenham and Chelsea have produced a total of 16 goals in total (an average of 5.3 per game).
- Tottenham have conceded more Premier League home goals to Chelsea (38) than any other team.
- Chelsea have only conceded 22 goals in 21 Premier League outings at White Hart Lane.
- Five of Tottenham’s last six Premier League games have ended 1-0 (W4 L1).
- No team in Europe’s top five leagues has conceded fewer goals than Spurs this season (1).
- Spurs have fashioned more goal attempts from open play (60) than any other team this season but have scored only three of them.
- None of Chelsea’s strikers have scored a Premier League goal yet this season.
- If this game is a draw then Chelsea will have made the same start as they did in 2007/08 when Jose Mourinho departed after six Premier League matches.
- Chelsea haven’t scored more than two goals in any of their last 11 Premier League games.
With just three league goals conceded between them, clear-cut chances will be at a premium and a fox-in-the-box finisher could prove key. Chelsea still strive for the right striking formula up front this season, but Spurs have a ready-made poacher in Roberto Soldado and the Spaniard's instincts could prove the difference. 1-0.