“When you are favourites, you know why you are favourites.”
Before they take the field on Sunday, Jose Mourinho was in the press conference room, playing mind games ahead of the biggest London Derby of the season so far, as the resurgent Tottenham Hotspur travel south to take on the Portuguese's former side Chelsea, spearheaded by the player that was part of the core that he led to successive Premier League titles – Frank Lampard.
Mourinho was quick to point out Chelsea’s eye-watering summer spending that saw them add seven players to the team, however, Spurs weren’t too far behind in the recruiting department, adding five players to the side that finished sixth in the Premier League last season.
Both teams have enjoyed a stunning start to their league campaigns. Tottenham are currently second, just a point behind league-leaders and reigning champions Liverpool with a game in hand, while Chelsea trail their London rivals by two points and sit in third.
This game represents more than just three points. Chelsea versus Tottenham has produced some intensely heated game in the past five seasons and add the Mourinho connection to the equation and it’s bound to be fireworks.
For Mourinho, this game is a chance to set the record straight against Lampard. In two matches against the manager he once coached, Mourinho is winless. The first meeting between the two happened in the League Cup when the Portuguese manager was still at Manchester United and Lampard in his rookie year as a head coach at Derby County.
Lampard and Derby knocked Mourinho and United out of the competition on penalties and just a month later, Mourinho was out of the job at Old Trafford, replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Lampard led Derby all the way to the playoff finals, where they were beaten by Aston Villa.
Lampard, though, was soon hired by Chelsea and later in the year, Mourinho was appointed the Spurs boss after Mauricio Pochettino was sacked unceremoniously. The two have only met once so far in the Premier League, with Chelsea and Lampard coming out on top with a 2-1 win courtesy of goals from Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso.
However, this is a different Spurs team. A team that believes that they can go all the way this season. Mourinho and Spurs have already scored huge wins over Manchester United and Manchester City in the Premier League with Harry Kane and Heung Min-Son leading the way for the North Londoners.
Chelsea, too, have title aspirations after their summer splurge and continue to keep pace with those at the top. However, a victory for Spurs could see them open a five-point gap on Chelsea and while it’s still early to call that an insurmountable lead, the psychological effect of a defeat could be devastating for a young Chelsea side.
Mourinho has launched his mind games and deflected the pressure off his team to score a victory on Sunday onto Chelsea. However, there is absolutely no doubt that the Portuguese manager believes this is his chance to settle his score against his former apprentice.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Ian Kington