Frank Lampard never gave any credence to the view that Jose Mourinho, his old mentor, was a manager who had been swept aside by the modern game.
Lampard, after all, developed a special bond with Mourinho while becoming one of the world’s great attacking midfielders under the Portuguese coach in their trophy-laden time together at Chelsea from 2004-07.
And he has tapped into what he sees as Mourinho’s best attributes as a coach — his winning mentality, his ability to fill players with self-belief — in the early stages of his own managerial career.
So, for Lampard, it’s no surprise to see Mourinho rebound from a difficult spell in charge of Manchester United and be on the Premier League title charge once again, this time at Tottenham.
“You don’t have a record as decorated as Jose Mourinho has without being a very talented coach,” Lampard said Friday. “The game is so reactionary at the moment. Particularly the modern era, with all social-media reaction.”
The respect is there, clearly, but that doesn’t mean Lampard isn’t going to stand up to Mourinho on the touchline.
On Sunday, Lampard’s Chelsea hosts Mourinho’s Tottenham at Stamford Bridge in the biggest Premier League match of the weekend featuring two members of the current top three. Tottenham, in first place, is two points ahead of Chelsea in third.
It brings Lampard and Mourinho together on the touchline, two months after they had a mid-match spat in the technical area during a League Cup match at Tottenham. Mourinho apparently made a reference to Lampard becoming more vocal after his team took the lead — Chelsea would go on to lose on penalties — while Lampard, for his part, asked why Mourinho spent more time speaking to the referee than his own players.
Last year, meanwhile, when the teams met in the league at Tottenham’s stadium, Mourinho claimed Lampard had merely copied predecessor Antonio Conte’s tactics in using a 3-4-3 formation for a match Chelsea won 2-0.
Lampard was also involved in a touchline spat with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp in the next-to-last match of last season. With barely two years of senior managerial experience behind him, Lampard is refusing to be walked all over.
“It’s not important just to stand my ground,” he said. “It’s important to approach the game against all the top coaches — and we are fortunate in the Premier League to have great coaches — to try to prepare my team as well as I can to try and win the games.
“I have respect for Jose as a manager. I didn’t take any offense to the talk about Antonio Conte’s system or whatever. I played that system clearly a lot differently last year when we did play it to how Conte would have done. Jose can have his opinions. It’s a not a problem.”
Indeed, Chelsea did the league double over Tottenham last season, beating its London rival 2-1 at home, but the current version of Spurs has more of Mourinho’s fingerprints on it.
The defense is getting tighter, the beefed-up midfield is more hard-working with the arrival of anchorman Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, while Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have developed a superb partnership in attack, proving especially dangerous on the counter.
It was via that route that Tottenham scored its goals in a 2-0 win over Manchester City last weekend, lifting Mourinho’s team to the top of the league.
Win on Sunday in what is Chelsea’s 1,000th game since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, and — however Mourinho tries to downplay it — Tottenham will be viewed as genuine title contenders.
“You have to respect Tottenham and the way they are playing, the quality they have and their style and how they like to approach games. I am very aware of it,” Lampard said. “The game last week (against City) has lots of pointers to that. I also think they are a team that is so talented they can play in various ways.
“But with us, one of the best things I have seen recently is the balance in our team. I think we are not an overly attacking team that will leave ourselves vulnerable. We have to be aware particularly of the level of Harry Kane, the relationship with him and Son at the minute. I don’t think you can look past that.”
Lampard said Christian Pulisic is available again after the American winger’s latest hamstring injury but was unlikely to play from the start.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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