Chelsea Focus - Tottenham clash about more than Mourinho vs. Villas-Boas
It's been predictably, and somewhat tediously, billed as 'the master versus the apprentice', but Saturday's London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane has plenty of sub-plots apart from the banal focus on Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas.
Spurs manager Villas-Boas left Stamford Bridge in acrimonious circumstances in March 2012, after his insistence on blending in the club's young blood backfired when senior players reportedly staged a mini mutiny. Previously, he had worked under Mourinho during the ex-Real Madrid manager's successful first stint at the Blues.
This weekend will be the first time that Mourinho and Villas-Boas have gone toe-to-toe in opposite dugouts, prompting onlookers to examine the duo's alleged similarities and how each manager could counteract the other's tactical thoughts.
But the fact is that the two have little in common: Villas-Boas is more attack-minded and composed while Mourinho's style is pragmatic but spiky. The former has pointed this out, telling reporters: “I'm completely different to him in terms of personality, way of working and communication. We have different philosophies. We had a super working relationship, we won, but as soon as we parted ways, I started doing things my way. The comparisons come from the media. And the first difference is our personalities.”
The more nuanced tussles are elsewhere. Chelsea's much maligned frontman Fernando Torres was in impressive form in the 2-0 Capital One Cup win over Swindon Town in midweek, and Mourinho could well choose to stick with him rather than bring in Samuel Eto'o or, less likely still, Demba Ba.
Whoever is given the vote of confidence will come up against a Tottenham defence which is meaner than any other in recent years. Spurs have conceded just once in nine matches this season, with Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson's central defensive partnership looking the most solid in the Premier League.
And the Blues could well face difficulties at the other end of the pitch. Spurs striker Roberto Soldado has made a bright start to his Premier League career and, despite not scoring so far in September, will savour the big-game atmosphere. Behind him, Christian Eriksen has shone since moving from Ajax and Erik Lamela is slowly building up to top form - setting up the winning goal for Paulinho in Spurs' last-gasp victory over Cardiff City last weekend.
In contrast, there are still questions over Chelsea's defence. John Terry and Gary Cahill appear to be Mourinho's preferred defensive duo but their positioning has been found wanting in the early weeks of the season. Possible replacement David Luiz is far from tactically sound either, so at their fluid, delicate best, Tottenham's attacking lines have the potential to cause the visitors all sorts of problems.
There are much more than managerial bragging rights to play for at Saturday lunch time - either club will go top with a win, which is far more significant than the Mourinho versus Villas-Boas sideshow.
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