LONDON (Reuters) – Antonio Conte takes Tottenham back to his former employers Chelsea on Sunday for what will already be something of a litmus test for both London clubs so early in the Premier League season.
Spurs are top of the table after a dominant 4-1 home win against Southampton in their opening match and, on the back of some impressive new signings, the hopes and expectations are high in north London.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea started their campaign with a 1-0 win at Everton.
The west Londoners, now controlled by an investment group led by LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly following the departure of Russian Roman Abramovich, have a strong record against Spurs to live up to.
Chelsea are unbeaten in seven games against Tottenham, conceding only one goal in that run, while the visitors have won just one of their previous 37 away matches against Chelsea in all competitions.
Spurs striker Harry Kane has also failed to score in any of his past five appearances against Chelsea, who beat Spurs four times last season including a Premier League double.
Conte, who managed the Blues from 2016 to 2018 and took them to the 2016-17 league title as well as the 2018 FA Cup, will be looking to change the trajectory.
“With Chelsea last season, I think I have seen a lot of difference in the level,” Conte, who took charge of Spurs in November, told reporters after last Saturday’s game.
“We played three games in 12 days (against Chelsea last season), we lost three games, we didn’t score and they showed in these three games that in the moment they were much better than us.
“This season we are starting with seven months of work and, for me, this is very important because I can go in another step to implement our football knowledge and try to be stronger.”
The match at Stamford Bridge is the first of the campaign between clubs in the league’s big six, with Chelsea finishing third and Tottenham fourth last season, and both will want to put down an early marker.
“I’m worried for Chelsea this weekend,” former Arsenal playmaker Paul Merson wrote on sportskeeda.com.
“If Spurs come to Stamford Bridge and win, you’d be worried about Chelsea and their top-four credentials.”
Champions Manchester City host promoted Bournemouth on Saturday with Norwegian striker Erling Haaland looking to add to his opening day double on a home league debut that should bring a solid three points for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Last season’s runners-up Liverpool, who opened their campaign with a 2-2 draw at promoted Fulham, host Crystal Palace on Monday.
Arsenal, who beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in the season-opener, are at home to Leicester City, who gave away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at Brentford, on Saturday.
Brentford host Manchester United in Saturday’s later kickoff with the visitors looking to avoid losing their first two league matches for the first time since 1992.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)