sports

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur: Premier League – live!


Even when not seeking to end protracted television series, humans are pathologically obsessed with stories – consider our relationships to literature, art, psychoanalysis, gossip and ourselves. And there are fewer better examples of such than football, an eternal continuum of unfolding events less boring than whatever else we happen to be doing.

But even in that context, this match stands out, a moreish speedball of narrative and life that has every chance of ending in a ruck. Most importantly, this is a derby between two clubs that despise each other for our entertainment, sentiments with deep roots that periodically surface on the pitch. Though there’ll be no fans in the ground, the players will know exactly what’s expected of them nevertheless so we can hope.

On top of that, this is a derby to decide who’ll be top of the league at the end of the weekend, an aspect intensified by how little anyone expected that to be the case. Spurs, though, somehow found the money that Mauricio Pochettino was always denied and spent it well, then Harry Kane restored José Mourinho’s mislaid mojo after almost a decade in exile and suddenly we’re looking at potential champions.

Chelsea, meanwhile, appeared to be spending like, well, an oligarch, buying expensive shiny stuff because they could and to stop anyone else having it, rather than because they absolutely needed it. But then Hakim Ziyech got fit and opened up everything – an impact that will surprise no one who was shocked he wasn’t expropriated from Ajax sooner. For as long as N’golo Kanté stays fit and the centre of their defence holds up, they are a threat.

And finally, there’s the managerial aspect. The work Mourinho did with Frank Lampard and pals is almost unprecedented in football history, his shamanic bronca inspiring a team that continued winning because of him for years after he left. The styles the two of them espouse are not similar, but the attitude they demand could not be more so; watching that play out should be an absolute treat.

Kick-off: 4.30pm GMT



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