Roberto Di Matteo is looking forward to a first footballing reunion with Andre Villas-Boas since replacing the Portuguese as Chelsea manager, when we travel to Tottenham on Saturday afternoon.
The Barclays Premier League match at White Hart Lane is the first time we will have come face to face with Villas-Boas since he left Chelsea in early March, and our former manager has quickly set about moulding an effective Spurs team, which has won its last four league games.
Di Matteo was of course assistant to the Portuguese, but went on to lead us to FA Cup and Champions League glory at the end of last season, and is now looking forward to an intriguing fixture in N17 before we face Shakhtar Donetsk in Europe and Manchester United back at the Bridge next weekend.
‘It’s going to be a very important week for us. We’re playing against two oppositions that are fighting for the same ambition that we have, to try to stay at the top of the Barclays Premier League,’ Di Matteo summarised, adding that he feels they are contenders for the title.
‘I think they are. I talked about United, City, ourselves, and I said Arsenal, and I said there was a surprise,’ he said, referring to pre-season predictions on the title race. Spurs are be a team that over the years established themselves in the top four, five, and are always getting closer to the top.’
Regarding Villas-Boas, Di Matteo is not surprised the 35-year-old has quickly returned to work after leaving Chelsea, but is not worrying about personal issues this afternoon.
‘He’s a bright man, a talented coach and was very successful at Porto so I’m not surprised,’ said the Italian.
‘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.
‘I don’t think if you get sacked it means you’re not a good coach. I don’t think it’s a measure of how good you are as a coach.’
Since taking over from Harry Redknapp, Villas-Boas has changed Tottenham’s shape to a 4-2-3-1 that mirrors Chelsea’s under Di Matteo, but the Blues manager believes the team’s styles remain different.
‘I’m not so sure we are that similar in the way that Spurs play and we play,’ he said. ‘Maybe the system of play this season is similar, the same 4-2-3-1 formation, but I wouldn’t say it’s similar the way we play.
‘Spurs are a very dangerous counter-attacking team with the pace and power they have in the team, with Bale, Lennon, Defoe, Demebele, they are all pacey players that convert a defensive situation into an attacking option.’
Without a league win at White Hart Lane since 2005, Di Matteo knows his side will have to be at its best if we are to maintain our unbeaten start to the season.