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Revenge is a dish best served against Chelsea

I still remember when Chelsea appointed Andre Villas-Boas last summer. My first message to my father was “They’ll win the Champions League”.

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I still remember when Chelsea appointed Andre Villas-Boas last summer. My first message to my father was “They’ll win the Champions League”. In hindsight, I’m gutted I didn’t put any money on it. As such, it was their win in Munich back in May that saw Tottenham Hotspur miss out on a place in the Champions League, so, er, sorry about that.

Anyway, the Blues picked up European glory without Villas-Boas at the helm. He was sacked back in March following defeat to West Bromwich Albion, while days earlier had succumbed to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Napoli and left the club on the verge of exiting Europe.

Fast forward to the present day, and the 35-year-old is preparing his Spurs side for the welcome of Chelsea to White Hart Lane in what will be his first encounter against his former employers. Many believe this is the perfect time for Villas-Boas to fully showcase his capabilities to Roman Abramovich and co., regardless of his comments over the summer and during his pre-match press conference on Thursday.

As it currently stands, Spurs have won their last four games, quelling any talk of turmoil at White Hart Lane. Fortunately, fans never rose to the comments regarding Villas-Boas in the media, which have in fact seen the supporters backing for the Portuguese tactician strengthen significantly.

Many believe that the win over Manchester United at Old Trafford last month is the turning points in the clubs fortunes. After a shaky start, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who argues with that sentiment.

However, Chelsea pose the first real threat to make the trip to Spurs this season. No mean to cause any offence to West Brom, Norwich City, Aston Villa or QPR fans, but the Blues are a more difficult proposition than the aforementioned quartet.

Currently topping the Premier League, taking 19 points of a potential 21 available, with their most impressive result coming in the 2-1 away win at Arsenal last month. The trip to White Hart Lane will be one of their toughest of the season, with the Blues unable to overcome their London neighbours in the Premiership since a 2-0 over Spurs back in 2005.

Furthermore, Spurs haven’t tasted defeat at home in a London derby in the Premiership since 2007; a 3-1 loss at the hands of Arsenal. That’s a run currently spanning 20 games and one that the Blues will be hoping to bring to an end on Saturday afternoon.

Nevertheless, they will find it difficult against a Spurs side that are starting to gain momentum as the season goes on. The arrivals of Jan Vertonghen, Clint Dempsey and, perhaps most importantly, Mousa Dembele have taken to their new surroundings almost seamlessly.  

On top of that, the reinvigoration of Jermain Defoe and the integration of Steven Caulker, following his spell with Swansea City last season, have given the squad the depth that appeared desperately lacking once the season kicked off back in August.

Add the likes of Hugo Lloris, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson to the ranks and it’s a squad that could be marvelled at by some. And it’s this strength that will be pivotal if Spurs are to overcome Chelsea on Saturday.

Fortunately, Dembele has recovered from a knock that he sustained during the 2-0 win over Scotland with Belgium on Tuesday. He has been one of, if not the, best signing made by Villas-Boas and has proven a more than adequate replacement for Luka Modric.

He’ll likely retain his place in the middle of the park alongside Sandro, while the rest of the squad is set to pick itself. The only real conundrum on the hands of Villas-Boas is who to start in goal. Lloris made his league debut during the 2-0 win over Aston Villa the last weekend before the international break.

His start saw Brad Friedel’s 310 consecutive game record come to an abrupt end. However, reports suggest the American is to be drafted back into the starting XI for the visit of the Blues, a wise move for Villas-Boas on one hand, but detrimental on the other.

Friedel’s experience can be vital, but his distribution and inability to commit from his line have let him down in the past. Lloris all but makes up for this, with the former pivotal if Spurs are to overcome the Blues.

With Chelsea set to pack the midfield, much like they have done this season, hitting them on the counter-attack will be vital, similar to Spurs’ plan during the win over Manchester United. For that reason, I would persist with Lloris, regardless of Friedel’s experience. Plus, ya know, he’s better on FIFA 13.

Potential starting XI

Lloris; Walker, Caulker, Gallas, Vertonghen; Sandro, Dembele; Lennon, Dempsey, Bale; Defoe

Prediction – 2-2

Can see goals in this one, but I feel both sides will be unable to net the winner. Spurs will look to take advantage of John Terry’s absence, with the Chelsea captain starting his four game ban having been found guilty by the FA of racial abuse towards Anton Ferdinand.

With that in mind, Steven Caulker will be the man to target from set pieces and after netting his first goal for the club in the 2-0 win over Villa, will look to add his second in his successive games. Gareth Bale will also look to exploit the rigid Blues defence and I can see him adding to his two goals this season already.

For the Blues, can’t look beyond Fernando Torres netting, who despite finding himself ridiculed on regularly in recent months, still has six goals to his name in 12 appearances this season. Eden Hazard will look to get on the scoresheet, with his movement both on and off the ball likely to pose a threat to Kyle Walker, who has started the season off poorly. The Belgium international will look to exploit this and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the better of the right-back during the encounter. 

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