Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea have only won once in their last seven league trips to White Hart Lane
  • Tottenham have averaged the most shot per game (21) in the Premier League
  • Only one of Chelsea’s last 25 league goals has been scored be a recognized striker, Fernando Torres last May vs. Everton

This London derby has a whole host of subplots this season, as both teams are desperate to make a statement for capital domination early in the campaign.

Tottenham face Chelsea on Saturday (7:45am ET, watch on NBCSN and live online via NBC Sports Live Extra) knowing a win will momentarily take them top of the Premier League table. As for Chelsea, they need to get some kind of momentum going after winning just one of their last four games in Jose Mourinho’s second spell in charge.

But we mentioned the intriguing subplots surrounding this capital clash, so let’s break it down.

In the build up to this game, everyone is talking about the strained relationship between Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas and the man who was his boss for so long, Chelsea’s head coach Mourinho. AVB was employed as a coach under Mourinho at FC Porto, Inter Milan and Chelsea, but has revealed this week that they aren’t friends anymore.

That should crank up the intensity a few notches.

Then of course, there is the fact that both teams are fighting to get into the top four, with Chelsea aiming to win the title and Spurs happy to snatch a Champions League berth. Both clubs are capable of that, and winning this game would send out a big message to the rest of the league. AVB and Mourinho’s squabbling aside, this match will be an intriguing encounter between Spurs’ new boys and Chelsea’s new philosophy that the ‘Special One’ is trying to foster at Stamford Bridge.

As for injuries, Chelsea will be without Marco van Ginkel after the Dutch winger tore his ACL against Swindon in the League Cup on Tuesday, while Brazilian midfielder Ramires is also a huge doubt after picking up a knock. Tottenham have no fresh injury worries after resting Danny Rose and Aaron Lennon in the 4-0 League cup win over Aston Villa.

Spurs’ new-look side, boasting the likes of Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, will look to pile more pressure on Mourinho and Chelsea with a win on Saturday.

Can the apprentice defeat the master? AVB’s Spurs vs. Mourinho’s Chelsea will be one heck of a battle.

What they’re saying

Andre Villas-Boas on his relationship with Jose Mourinho: “I don’t lose any sleep. We had a great personal and professional relationship before. We don’t have that now. Our break-up point was because I was full of ambition to give him something extra and I wanted further involvement from the job I was doing at that time. I felt I could give him much more. But he didn’t feel the need for somebody near to him or in another position as an assistant, and because of that it was decided that it was time, after Inter Milan, to continue our careers apart.”

Jose Mourinho on his relationship with AVB: “I don’t discuss this with the media. It’s a personal thing. I don’t care what he says. I’m not here to do that. I’m not interested. I am not a kid – if I have a problem with someone I go upstairs, we speak and we have lunch.”

Tottenham’s Paulinho on facing Brazilian teammates against Chelsea:There is a level of affection there, a friendship between us all. But when we step onto the field of play we are there to defend ourselves and defend our team so I will be there fighting for Tottenham Hotspur. It’s a big match here in London, and in Brazil, where many people will watch, and it’s important for us, as a stepping stone also to win more games.”

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill on the new approach Mourinho is bringing in: “It was a tough week, especially when we lost back to back. But we’ve responded really well. Two wins, two clean sheets. Happy days at the minute. He [Mourinho] really expects you to defend and know where to be. Not just the back four, but everybody when we lose the ball. I don’t mind playing higher. It’s difficult to play high against people with real, real pace. (But) I’m quite comfortable with playing high and I think the lads are.”

Prediction

This game will be a cagey affair, as both teams know the importance of not losing. Tottenham have won eight of their nine games so far this season, only conceding once in a narrow defeat to Arsenal. I think Spurs’ attack is taking time to gel and they may find it tough against a Chelsea side that has their backs against the wall. Jose Mourinho’s men have a hugely talented squad, and it’s only a matter of time before everything clicks into place. They have so many experienced players who step up to the plate when it really matters, so for that reason I think the Blues will edge this one at White Hart Lane.

Video: Fekir’s brilliant free kick has Lyon leading PSG

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Paris-Saint Germain has established itself as one of Europe’s best sides, but their opponent on Sunday isn’t playing scared against Neymar and Co.

Lyon has taken a 1-0 lead inside the opening two minutes against the Parisians after a stunning free kick by Nabil Fekir caught PSG keeper Alphonse Aréola off his line.

The hosts could move all the way up to second place today with a victory over PSG, who holds the league lead in Ligue 1 with a nine-point advantage.

The 24-year-old Fekir has been a revelation for Lyon in his fifth season with the club, scoring his 19th goal in all competitions on Sunday.

That total has already surpassed his career-high from the 2014/1

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images
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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”