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White Hart Lane will be a cauldron of pure footballing rivalry later today as Tottenham Hotspur welcome Chelsea in the early kick-off. The local London rivalry aside the game represents the first chance for Andre Villas-Boas to rub shoulders with his former employers, who unceremoniously booted him out of Stamford Bridge earlier this year. AVBâ€™s former assistant Roberto Di Matteo has since performed a miraculous turnaround at Chelsea, but the Italian insists that there is no bad blood between the two men ahead of todayâ€™s clash.
Initially reluctant to delve into the personal rivalry, Di Matteo said this during the pre-match press-conference: â€œWe are more focused playing against Tottenham, a team in very good form with four consecutive wins,â€ before adding that he intended to end Chelseaâ€™s long winless streak at Tottenham, which stretches back to 2005. Chelsea are the early pace-setters in the Premier League, enjoying a four point lead over their Manchester rivals with Spurs a further point behind.
He did drop a few sound bites to Chelseaâ€™s website though: â€œHe's a bright man, a talented coach and was very successful at Porto so I'm not surprised. It's the first time we play against each other and I think my mind is more focused on the team, their players, the way they play and it's probably the same for him. Apart from Saturday we have a very good relationship, but tomorrow we will both want to beat each other.â€
Both young coaches already have the valuable experience of being sacked, with Di Matteo suffering AVBâ€™s fate at West Brom in 2011. But they find themselves leading expensively-assembled teams at the upper echelons of the Premier League now, which is a growing trend among the clubs in the division. Villas-Boas will no doubt be keen to prove that the debacle at Chelsea was a flash in the pan, as opposed to the momentous victory at Manchester United a few weeks back, which he will hope isnâ€™t a one-off.
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