LONDON: Chelsea will not lack incentives to knock Tottenham Hotspur off their Premier League perch when the capital’s most bitter derby kicks off at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The west Londoners have lorded it over Spurs for the past two decades, bagging sackfuls of silverware while Tottenham yearn for a return to their glory days.
Under Mauricio Pochettino Spurs twice finished above Chelsea in the standings, but missed out on the title to the Blues by seven points after an intense race in 2017.
The season before Chelsea finished 10th but even then had the last laugh in a bad-tempered draw at Stamford Bridge that killed the title dream of Pochettino’s team.
Tottenham are again hinting at a title charge and will go into the weekend top of the league after at least nine rounds for the first time since 1985.
That the architect of their resurgence is Jose Mourinho — the manager once idolised by the Stamford Bridge faithful for delivering three Premier League titles in two stints — makes it all the harder to swallow for Chelsea.
Apart from a remarkable 6-1 win at Manchester United, Spurs’ relatively comfortable run of fixtures led many to suggest they were in a false position. Last week’s 2-0 win over Manchester City changed all that. It was a Mourinho masterclass.
City had more shots and more possession but hosts Tottenham were clinical and the fact tht they left Gareth Bale on the bench spoke volumes for the depth they have in their squad.
“Mourinho wants to win a trophy here. He knows we are capable of winning. We have all that we need to win. He’s the right man to bring us to the trophy,” forward Lucas Moura said.
Stamford Bridge has been a barren hunting ground for Tottenham though, with one away league win in 30 years.
Victory for Chelsea would see them leapfrog Spurs, who may have already have been replaced as leaders by champions Liverpool who visit Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
Tottenham have 20 points, the same as Liverpool, with Chelsea in third place on 18 after three successive wins.
Frank Lampard’s side warmed up for the derby with a 2-1 victory at Stade Rennais on Tuesday to seal a spot in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
Tottenham are in action 48 hours later on Thursday at home to Bulgarian side Ludogorets in the Europa League which, while being a disadvantage, was dismissed by Lampard.
“He (Mourinho) has got a strong squad and he can make rotations. But if you’re not going to get up ready to attack a London derby, then you shouldn’t be in this game,” the Chelsea boss said.
Liverpool will be eager to bounce back from Wednesday’s stumble in the Champions League, when they lost 2-0 at home to Atalanta, as they face Brighton on Saturday lunchtime.
Manchester City host Burnley in the odd position of being as far away from top spot as they are from the relegation places.
City’s defeat at Spurs left them languishing in 13th place with 12 points and a minus one goal difference. Their fightback needs to begin soon and Burnley may be the fall guys.
Burnley’s home win over Crystal Palace on Monday means only two clubs, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United, are still without a victory and they meet at The Hawthorns on Saturday. – Reuters