When Jose Mourinho took over as Tottenham manager on November 20, 2019, the difference between his new team and their London rivals, Chelsea, was 12 points.
By the time they file out at the Tottenham Stadium today, the gap would be three points and any win for Spurs will take them over Chelsea into the fourth Champions League place – level on points but with a better goal difference.
So what is the pressure on both managers for this match?
For those colour purists, choosing between Tottenham and Chelsea is choosing between pale blue and blue. Around the posh surroundings of Tottenham’s new stadium on Sunday, the fight will be more than just colour.
Mourinho can take his new team above his old team as he begins payback for the £15 million per annum he gets paid by Daniel Levy. But that is not where the narrative ends as the Special One will be out to teach both Frank Lampard and his assistant, Jody Morris, some lessons in football management.
Having baited Chelsea from the Sky Sports Studio and having caught Morris in the trap – Mourinho planted a target on the back of his old team in the mind of his new team.
After saying he would never manage Spurs, whilst Chelsea manager, Mourinho said, after his unveiling, “they sacked me. I’m 100 percent Tottenham now.”
Meanwhile, Lampard has to stop the rot – a run of just three points from a possible 15 is not helping the cause and he knows his mentor will go for the kill on Sunday. Lampard told the Chelsea website, “He [Mourinho] wants to win this game probably more than any other game since he’s been there – I’m pretty sure of that.”
3 duels to watch
Serge Aurier v Christian Pulisic
This is the classic strength versus guile. Aurier is one player who has had an upturn in form since Mourinho’s arrival while Pulisic’s role as a starter for Chelsea coincided with the seven-match unbeaten run that saw the Blues briefly challenge for the title. Aurier also creates scoring chances from his right-back role, so Pulisic must concentrate on his offensive and defensive duties.
Son Heung-Min v Cesar Azpilicueta
Son is Tottenham’s speedster and he will fly down the left flank all afternoon, continuously testing Azpilicueta’s agility and endurance. In one-beat-one situations, the Chelsea captain is about the best in the EPL, but he is getting on in age and has lost some speed. Lampard will offer Kante better options if he opts for a three-man defence.
Dele Alli v N’Golo Kante
A great part of Spurs’ offensive nous when the team was flying under their former manager was Alli’s impetus and goals and his bad form coincided with the team’s slide. Mourinho has invigorated the England man. Chelsea need to play Kante centrally to try to combat Alli’s runs from deep and the spaces between the central defenders. Kante will run all day, but Lampard has to position him in the most effective position to help the team.
“For me, it’s a game. I am 100% Tottenham, I am 100% my club, always. All my career, 100% my club, no space at all for my previous clubs. I gave everything to all of my previous clubs. Everything. I kept nothing from them. I gave everything, but they are my previous clubs. I give everything I have to my club – and my club is Tottenham.” – Jose Mourinho, Tottenham Manager.
“Any rivalry or local derby is a game that ups the ante slightly for players and fans. I definitely felt that as a player and I remember going into those games feeling the eagerness to win but also the desperation not to lose because of what it meant. That’s how it should feel for all of us and it certainly does for me.” – Frank Lampard, Chelsea Manager.