Its a plot that would make a wonderful story-line for the quintessential Bollywood flick. There’s bound to be truck loads of drama wherever Chelsea go, not least because John Terry’s on the prowl. But when he’s not busy (not) racially abusing people or getting handshakes turned down, he’s lining up in the centre of the Chelsea defence along side a ball of hair who seems to take better free-kicks than Frank Lampard. There is bound to be singing at White Hart Lane, seeing as it isn’t the painfully docile Lord’s cricket ground, and there’s bound to be a late challenge or two. More, if William Gallas plays. Besides, there’s always Twitter for players to spice things up by saying stupid things while making embarrassing spelling mistakes. But the main course, the central theme, of this story is that of one man standing 90 mins from redemption, or another being vindicated by triumph.
Andre Villas Boas has said that this “not about revenge” and its “just 3 points”. But after he was unceremoniously sacked by Chelsea in March this year after failing to get the desired results and being unable to get his players’ confidence in his methods and philosophy, this is sure to mean much more to him than most matches. Roberto Di Matteo was installed as temporary manager and he promptly led them to a first ever UEFA Champions League triumph. So, job secured, RDM went on vacation while poor old AVB went job hunting. He found it at a Spurs side still slightly dazed and confused at why exactly they were playing in the Europa League despite finishing 4th in the League. Ah yes! Chelsea edged them out of the Champions League as holders. The same Chelsea that had basically kicked him out for trying to do what they told him to do in the first place.
Chelsea off to a flyer
Chelsea come into this game as the league leaders, and full of confidence. They beat Arsenal only 3 weeks ago and have been getting some impressive performances from their very fluid front 4. Torres is back among the goals and in Oscar they seem to have found quite a gem. Eden Hazard has been one of the stars of the early season, and Juan Mata’s extended summer break seems to have re-invigorated him. In defense, Terry’s decision not to appeal his 4 match ban by the FA means that he will be unavailable for this game, and in truth, it might be a blessing in disguise for Di Matteo. Playing Cahill and Luiz at the back means he can ask his side to push higher up the field and try and get the ball back from Tottenham through a high press. John Terry doesn’t seem to be a big fan of chasing after spritely young strikers anyway. Its a different story when it comes to the spritely not-so-young women of course. But even with him in the side, they have looked formidable at their best. They seemed to have settled down well as a group and will be difficult to beat, like Arsenal found. Having strengthened an already good squad they look like real challengers this season, but Tottenham will probably have something to say about that.
Spurs settling down
Opening night on tyneside didn’t go too well for Villas Boas as his team suffered a loss to Newcastle, followed by two draws against teams that they should have, quite frankly, beaten. AVB was on familiar grounds, being boo-ed by Londoners at half time, full time, and in between. But having settled his transfer business with the sale of Luka Modric and acquisition of Moussa Dembele amongst others, Spurs have looked a magnificent team at times. Their pace and quick attacks are a joy to watch and while they’ve still not hit their best, they are fun to watch. Jermaine Defoe has been a revelation for them. From a younger, shorter, leaner Emile Heskey, to an actual, useful striker, his transformation has boosted Spurs’ chances. His movement was part of the reason Rio Ferdinand had such a nightmare in Tottenham’s win at Old Trafford. Their first in my lifetime. Jan Vertonghen is a top class signing, and along with Dembele, Sigurdsson and Dempsey, has strengthened the defense which hadn’t looked the best after Ledley King had to retire due to injury (something Michael Owen will never understand). But Chelsea will be a different level and AVB will have to get a consistent, focused performance from his players if they hope to beat the Blues. Bale and Lennon will be key, but Dembele and Sandro’s dealing with Chelsea creative outlets will probably be the battle that will decide this fixture.
Both teams need to win it, so there is no doubt that we will see the strongest eleven, starting. The only surprise we might see is Ryan Bertrand starting in front of Cole to keep a check on Lennon, but that too is unlikely. One out of Mikel and Ramires will probably be left out seeing as RDM doesn’t look like dropping Lampard. For Spurs and AVB the choice is between Dempsey and Sigurdsson. I expect Vertonghen to continue at left back with Caulker getting another start in the centre of defense. A delightfully named back four of Gallas and Caulker, flanked by Vertonghen and Walker will be fun to say at least.
Tottenham never play a dull game and somehow there’s always something dramatic at White Hart Lane. AVB’s orange beard might be one of the many attractions of the night. I’d back the home side to win this game by a goal, with both sides scoring. 1 for Defoe, 1 for Oscar. And an ecstatic AVB running onto the pitch doing somersaults. Wouldn’t that be fun!