Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
Having been rebuffed for a win by one former club, Jose Mourinho looks for a better outcome against the other one Sunday when Tottenham Hotspur host Chelsea in a highly anticipated London derby.
Mourinho has quickly reversed the fortunes of the Lilywhites (7-5-5) since his arrival last month, winning five of seven matches in all competitions. His lone league defeat in that span as Tottenham have rocketed from 14th to fifth - and would move into fourth on goal difference with a victory in this contest - was a 2-1 loss at Manchester United on Dec. 4.
"The Special One" saw his two-plus seasons at Old Trafford end in poor fashion despite a League Cup title and Europa League title, but Chelsea (9-2-6) are where the Portuguese gaffer made his name an internationally known one. Mourinho won three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup during his two stints at Stamford Bridge, with the Champions League trophy the only one to elude him there.
His second stint, however, also had a spectacular flameout during his title defence in 2015-16 when he parted ways with the Pensioners for a second time. Mourinho was quick to downplay the buildup of facing another former team so quickly after his return to the Premier League.
"I feel great," he told Spurs TV. "I don't care about the narratives. There are things you cannot deny, you cannot delete, and I wouldn't deny and wouldn't delete because it was an amazing period in my career.
"This is not about what I gave to my previous club, this is about what I can give to my club. So, for me, there is only one club. My club. Tottenham. For me to play against Chelsea, to play against Arsenal, it's the same thing." And pointing to the badge on his training shirt, Jose added: "The only thing that matters is the cockerel here."
Since losing to United, Spurs have bracketed a 3-1 loss in their Champions League finale to Bayern Munich with a pair of league victories, including a 2-1 triumph over Mourinho's former Porto goalkeeper and current Wolverhampton coach Nuno Espirito Santo at Molineux last Sunday. Jan Vertonghen headed home a corner kick by Christian Eriksen in the 91st minute for the winning goal in a cagey match that saw eight yellow cards handed out overall.
This time around, Mourinho will match up with Frank Lampard, his midfield linchpin of his first two Chelsea title-winning teams. Lampard has already gotten the better of his former manager once, sending Manchester United out of the Carabao Cup on penalties last season while guiding Derby County.
One piece of player news was positively resolved for Spurs on Friday when centre back Toby Alderweireld signed a new 3 ½-year deal with the club. The 29-year-old Belgium international was out of contract at season's end and reportedly trebled his wage packet to £150,000 per week. He has made 179 appearances for Spurs since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2015.
"I feel like I'm honoured to play for this club and I'm a small piece of getting to the next level in that couple of seasons, to reach the Champions League season in, season out and then get to the final as well," Alderweireld told the club's official website. "I think this is just the beginning of something big and something very exciting. There is no place I'd be happier.
"It's not only me. My family is very happy here, again, I'm very lucky to have a very good connection with the fans and with the club. I couldn't see myself playing for another club."
Chelsea's hold on fourth is tenuous as Lampard's side enters this contest with four losses in their last five league games. The superb midfielder was quick to show respect to his former boss at his Friday news conference but also noted he is trying to forge his own identity on the touchline.
"He was a good manager, with loads of good attributes, but I wouldn't try to be a clone of anything," Lampard said. "I'm happy to go up against Jose. To go up against him last year for Derby (County) against Manchester United was a big deal for me, and that remains I'll always have respect for him. But the bigger thing is Chelsea-Tottenham and what that rivalry means, what it should mean to our players and us, because that's the beauty of football."\
The Blues have ridden a rollercoaster much of the season to date with a young, precocious offence that sometimes switches off defensively, but Lampard right now is trying to get his side out of a low ebb that has seen them lose four of their last five in league play. Chelsea has not lost three on the trot in league play since November 2015, a stretch that hastened Mourinho's most recent departure.
They are coming off a 1-0 home loss to Bournemouth on Dec. 14, failing to solve Bournemouth's deep-lying defence. Of Chelsea's 18 shots, only five were on target and few were clear-cut as the 18-yard box was constantly congested with players from both sides.
Lampard felt his team was fatigued and opted to give them some recovery time early in the week since they did not have any midweek responsibilities.
"I don't like to call upon tiredness as an excuse, but the last performance at home where we didn't show the edge we normally have been, we were maybe looking at a bit of tiredness," Lampard said. "It's been a long time since we've had a week to work, and it means can do things more physical and more active. It feels valuable.
"We have a good spirit and a good group. Questions obviously start to be asked of yourselves in-house when you get some difficult results. It's important to be upfront and honest with each other. I see a positive group in training, a team training hard, a group that are together. That's all I can ask for. Now of course we need the results to turn back a little back because the last few I am not happy with."
The teams split four matches overall last season, with the home team winning the league matches by two goals and Chelsea advancing at Spurs' expense in the semifinals of the Carabao Cup.
Mourinho has yet to lose in 13 home matches against teams he previously coached, winning all but one of them. The Lilywhites, however, are also winless in their last 10 (0-3-7) against fellow "Big Six" sides.
Updated December 20, 2019