Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur will put their Premier League title credentials to the test when they renew their rivalry at White Hart Lane today.
Both teams made a raft of new signings during the close season and have made steady starts to the new campaign ahead of the 149th encounter between the two London clubs.
An injury-time goal from Paulinho gave Spurs a 1-0 win at Cardiff City last weekend that took them level on points with Arsenal at the top of the table, while Chelsea are two points back following a 2-0 victory over Fulham.
The game will not want for sub-plots, with Portuguese managers Andre Villas-Boas and Jose Mourinho due to face off for the first time since they ended their collaboration at Inter in 2009.
Villas-Boas failed to emulate his former mentor during an unsuccessful eight-month stint at Chelsea between 2011 and last year, but in Spurs he has found a club with its eyes on the same prizes.
Spurs have conceded only one goal to date, in a 1-0 loss to Arsenal on Sept. 1, and Villas-Boas says such parsimoniousness will stand them in good stead for the visit of his former team.
“What we’re seeing this season in the Premier League is that it’s tight at the top. I would expect a tight encounter,” said the Spurs coach, whose side crushed Aston Villa 4-0 in the League Cup in midweek.
“We’ve looked solid at the back; not just clean sheets, but the amount of opportunities allowed. We’ll have to show that ability again,” Villas-Boas added.
Chelsea center-back David Luiz, who has made just one league start under Mourinho, says it would be wrong to attach too much importance to the touchline duel between the managers.
“It’s Chelsea and Tottenham, not just Mourinho and Villas-Boas,” the Brazilian told the Chelsea Web site. “It’ll be a fantastic derby. Everyone will watch this game, everybody wants to play this game. Tottenham have a great team.”
Arsenal saw a run of 10 consecutive away wins come to an end in a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup on Wednesday, but they prevailed on penalties to maintain their recent momentum.
Arsene Wenger’s side are unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, but today they visit a Swansea City side smarting after their League Cup defense was ended by second-tier Birmingham City.
Manchester United reacted to their 4-1 derby humiliation at Manchester City last weekend by eliminating Liverpool in the League Cup and the champions will hope to get back to winning ways in the league by defeating West Brom.
The crushing loss to City left the champions five points below Arsenal in eighth place, but center-back Jonny Evans says he has known darker days at Old Trafford.
“I have been on the training ground where the atmosphere has been worse than it was when we came in the day after the [City] game,” the Northern Irishman said.
“We had no complaints at the weekend. Everyone was honest in their assessment that we didn’t apply ourselves the way we should have. It is hard for the fans, the players and the manager as well. We just had to move on from it quickly,” he added.
City continued their goal-scoring form by avenging last season’s FA Cup final loss to Wigan Athletic with a 5-0 League Cup win over the Championship side in midweek, ahead of a trip to Aston Villa today.
Montenegro striker Stevan Jovetic opened his account for City with a brace and will hope to keep his place in the starting lineup at Villa Park.
The post-Paolo di Canio era continues for Sunderland with a home game against Liverpool tomorrow, when caretaker coach Kevin Ball will once again be in charge of first-team affairs.
Liverpool can call upon last season’s top scorer Luis Suarez for the first time in the league this season, after he returned to action in the midweek loss to United following a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
Meanwhile, Everton will put the last unbeaten record in the division on the line when they host Newcastle United on Monday.