'Eriksen can fill Bale void' - Mullery & Nevin on Tottenham's clash with Chelsea

The two former players go head-to-head as Andre Villas-Boas takes on Jose Mourinho for the first time in Saturday's crunch meeting at White Hart Lane in the Premier League
Old friends collide on Saturday as Tottenham entertain Chelsea at White Hart Lane and Andre Villas-Boas meets Jose Mourinho for the first time as a manager.

And in the build-up to the mouthwatering Premier League clash, Goal caught up with former players from both sides as Alan Mullery and Pat Nevin offered their views on the fixture.

What do you make of new signings Christian Eriksen & Samuel Eto'o?

5/1 Chelsea are 5/1 with Bet365 to draw 1-1 with Tottenham
AM: "Christian Eriksen's impressed me. He looks quick and his strike against Tromso in the Europa League showed he has an eye for goal.

"Bale scored 20-odd goals last season and created countless others; without them Spurs would have been mid-table. They need someone who can fill that void and Eriksen could be the answer.

"The key for Spurs wasn’t how much they got for Gareth Bale but how much would be reinvested in strengthening the squad. The chairman [Daniel Levy] has shown real faith in his young manager by not just giving him the Bale transfer fee - but well over £100 million to invest.

"Spurs have spent the money brilliantly. They are good at the back, marvellous in midfield and they’ve got goals upfront.

"Just as encouraging is that Spurs have tightened up at the back and have conceded just one goal so far this season. There has been so much written about Bale and the new signings that the performances of players like Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen have largely gone unnoticed."

PN: "I was surprised that he signed Eto’o but he is a player with a proven scoring record and Mourinho must have seen enough of him to think it was worth the gamble.

"I’ve not seen enough of him recently to be sure and we will just have to wait and see if age has dulled his capabilities but it is unfair to judge him now.

"He is not 100 per cent fit and even though he is an experienced player, this is a new league to him and he will need to take time to adapt. We’ll know soon enough.

"As for Eriksen, I watched Spurs twice early on and each time I thought, ‘they need a no.10’. They’ve got that now with Eriksen and, in Bale’s absence, he is already looking like a key find.

191 GAMES 642
114 WON 433
41 DRAWN 128
59.7 WIN% 67.5
"Spurs have more than their fair share of proven goalscorers but too often the link-up play has let them down. Spurs relied too much on Bale to create and score the goals, now without him, they may have a better balance and appear to be more clinical."

Does Villas-Boas have a point to prove?

AM: "Forget about the new signings, Villas-Boas has nothing to prove to me or any Spurs fan. He wiped any slate he had clean by doing exceptionally well last season.

"Despite finishing fifth, Spurs earned 72 points, which is the most they’ve ever got in the Premier League and that shouldn’t be forgotten. I’m sure the chairman would not have sanctioned so many of these signings if Villas-Boas hadn’t earned his stripes last season."

PN: "AVB has nothing to prove. He did fantastically well at Porto and didn’t really have a chance at Chelsea to show what he can do. It was tough going for him at Chelsea and I couldn’t believe the dogs’ abuse and the criticism levelled at him that he was naive.

"Many Spurs fans were up in arms when he arrived - but not me. I am not the least bit surprised he is doing well there. They are real top-four contenders this season."

Who's going to win?

AM: "I am always nervous about making Spurs favourites, particularly with their record against Chelsea, but this time I admit they must be slight favourites.

"Mourinho is a great coach with a fantastic record at all his previous clubs but I think Spurs have hit the ground running and have the edge."

PN: "I'm willing to bet Chelsea will be a tougher proposition at the end of the season than now because it will take time for Mourinho to get his ideas across and make the transition.

"Expectations are always high when it comes to Mourinho but there is still a lot of hard work to do before they will look like a top-of-the-table side.

"I will be very surprised if he doesn’t rely heavily on the old guard, John Terry and Frank Lampard at Spurs, because without their experience it would be a concern that Chelsea would lose their discipline and shape if they fell behind.

"For the first time in a long time, I think Spurs are favourites against Chelsea. If I was a betting man, I’d still put my money on a draw, but if there is to be a winner, then it will probably be Spurs.

"Spurs are really powerful, play at a high tempo and, on a small surface like White Hart Lane, they will set Chelsea problems by denying them space."