Tottenham vs. Chelsea sees a dynastic conflict between two apprentices

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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea will see two apprentices of Bobby Robson collide in Andre Villas-Boas and Jose Mourinho, and while history is with the latter, the future could be for the former.

BT Sport's promo for the Tottenham-Chelsea game this weekend tells the story of how both José Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas were mentored by Bobby Robson, and most of the pre-game buildup is likely taking the same route.

Dynasties are rare in football, and as in real life, the greatness of the forefathers bear no influeunce on the reigns of their descendants. The many cadet branches of the Ferguson dynasty, for example, have foundered and failed at clubs as exotic and illustrious as Sunderland, Ipswich, Peterborough and Birmingham City. Yet unless some unstoried head of PR was promoted at Porto and subsequently went on to fail at Swindon without us realising, the Robson dynasty is one of quality, not quantity.

Both, however, find themselves in strange situations. Villas-Boas is widely regarded as an excellent manager, but hasn't really had the season or the streak at Spurs to really hammer that home. His pedigree is obviously the lesser of the two, but it has been from the start, winning only the lesser of the two European competitions in his first job at Porto, unlike Mourinho's triumph. His side have improved vastly since he took the job, but with a large chunk of that due to matters outside his control.

With the revolution that took place this summer, he can no longer claim it his not his team, which appeared to be a problem last year, and get to work. So far, the results have largely been promising, although there is still the whiff of the difficulties that plagued them last year, being unable to break through deep defences, around the place.

Yet there is still the possibility that (again, partly due to matters outside his control) Spurs could fail to even secure fourth place this season, for all the talk of title challenges. By now, it would be regarded as a failure rather than a setback. The failure to stay in the title picture would now be the manageable disappointment in its place, and that is the biggest difference between the two: Mourinho could very easily fail, but even though we can foresee it, it would be a shock. Or at least, blamed on his belligerence rather than incompetence. Were his side simply to struggle for no apparent reason and crash out of the title picture, jaws would drop. Villas-Boas failing would elicit a raised eyebrow at best.

Mourinho's situation, of failure being both predictable and unimaginable, is the most curious of all. Few managers have the very real prospects of long, glorious reigns and immediate disaster as potential paths at the same time, but his position at Chelsea is not a particular one. Taken almost as an afterthought after missing out on the job he wanted, his side have disappointed so far, with his most significant act so far to pick a fight with the club's best player, and possibly the management structure with it.

Considering his strong association with the club in England, it's strange how unseemly it is to see him back in the dugout. It's less strange when considering that we also have the prospect of David Moyes in the Manchester United one, as a thousand narratives, storylines, stereotypes and re-hashed Mario Balotelli parody account jokes hang in the air waiting to descend. The past is a foreign country, but we've only just emigrated, and it still feels like home. Spurs don't challenge Chelsea for the title, or any side led by José Mourinho for that matter.

Except, now, they just might. Neither team has yet settled into a style, but Chelsea are certainly there for the taking. Their midfield problems, hugely exacerbated by the injury to Marco van Ginkel, leave Spurs' powerful spine ready to dominate the game. If they can create and convert chances then victory begins to look very likely - Roberto Soldado alone is likely not enough to fix Spurs' striking problems, but it looks a far better bet than Samuel Eto'o.

Indeed, unless Manchester City's new signings all click and their existing players all maintain their form, Spurs could be the team with the fewest weaknesses in the league. That alone gives them a claim for the title, but to defeat Chelsea by outplaying them would go some way to backing it up. The storyline for this game is intriguing because, while it's not the master versus the apprentice, one of Robson's protégés is clearly greater than the other one. That may not be the case forever.

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