Rivalry change between Chelsea and Tottenham?!
A little slice of history Jose Mourinho will not want to recall from his first spell at Chelsea relates to Tottenham.
On November 5, 2006, Mourinho’s side became the first Chelsea team to lose to Tottenham in the league for over 16 years (though the latter had defeated their London rivals 5-1 in the League Cup in 2002). After Claude Makelele had opened the scoring, Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon scored either a side of half time in a 2-1 win that also saw John Terry sent off.
As well as breaking a winless streak in league play that stretched back since before Italia ’90—let alone the Premier League’s inception—the victory enabled Spurs to lose the fear that had plagued their encounters with the Blues.
Andre Villas-Boas’ side will respect a Chelsea team who have achieved consecutive European successes and which still features players who have won multiple league title. Yet they will also be confident about their chances this weekend.
That is in part a product of Spurs beating Chelsea twice more at White Hart Lane in the league since that first breakthrough in 2006 (plus edging them in the 2008 League Cup final, though an away win remains a hurdle).
But the disappearance of that trepidation is not just in the removal of any previous inter-club hoodoo.
Spurs’ win in 2006 came was a major stepping stone in the club’s return to (a relative) prominence in the English game.
Back then under Martin Jol, the first inklings of that resurgence were in the offing. Since that time Harry Redknapp, and now Villas-Boas, have taken up where the Dutchman left off, helping transform Spurs into a genuine top four contender.
Chelsea’s record underlines their overall superiority, but their fans will still dismay at seeing their capital neighbors shedding their status as the Stamford Bridge club’s whipping boys.
If that aspect is—at least for the time being—a thing of the past, the bonus of the teams being closer is that a win does mean more than bragging rights.
Last season, Chelsea’s 4-2 win in October was a big early boost in helping to finish above Tottenham. Given how the former won the Champions League at the conclusion of the prior campaign, it is easy to forget they had actually finished fifth, behind Spurs.
Managerial upheaval followed for the Blues, with Rafael Benitez replacing the popular Roberto Di Matteo a month after that derby win. Despite the animosity towards the Spaniard from some sections of the Stamford Bridge faithful, he oversaw a largely assured conclusion to 2012-13.
Mourinho might prefer to ignore a time at Chelsea when he was not in charge. However the Portuguese will likely benefit from the experiences young players like Oscar and Eden Hazard underwent in that process.
It was proof that—along with club veterans like Petr Cech and Frank Lampard—the club's new blood had it in them to hold off challenges from similarly ambitious teams such as Spurs.
As for Villas-Boas and his players, Saturday is a chance for them to try and move beyond just aspiring to the levels Chelsea have inhabited for so many years.
Spurs have looked in decent shape so far this season, winning four times and losing only once (albeit to Arsenal). To prove they are more than just a flash in the pan however, they will need to start taking points off those they consider rivals for Champions League places.
Should they do that, the Chelsea-Tottenham rivalry might begin to look even more different.