Andre Villas-Boas faces first Chelsea test since joining Tottenham Hotspur
Sacked Blues boss adamant he is not out for revenge against former club, but reckons that might not be the case for his Tottenham players
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas insists his players will be the only ones on a revenge mission when his former club Chelsea visit White Hart Lane in today's London derby.
With Chelsea captain John Terry suspended after deciding not to appeal against the four-match ban imposed for racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, the focus will be fixed firmly on Villas-Boas as he confronts the Blues for the first time since his dismissal after just nine months in the job.
Villas-Boas was bitter about his exit in March, and to make matters worse, his former assistant Roberto Di Matteo oversaw a revival that delivered the FA Cup and the Champions League.
Chelsea's European triumph ensured their return to the competition despite finishing in sixth place in the Premier League, and consigned fourth-placed Spurs to the Europa League. And Villas-Boas claims that will prove the more significant motivation for his team - who face the unbeaten league leaders on the back of four straight wins - than any personal thoughts of revenge.
"In the end there is one thing which has been to a certain extent blown out of proportion in some ways - this is certainly not a personal matter," Villas-Boas said. "I feel this is much more about Tottenham in the sense that Chelsea are the team who took this club out of the Champions League, and who prevented this team from playing in the FA Cup final last year [by beating Spurs 5-1 in the semi-final].
"So in the end, we certainly have ingredients for it to be a spectacular match," the Spurs boss said. "But this game is not going to decide the future of both teams in the Premier League.
"After this game there will be 30 more games to play, and both teams will have to have decisive matches in front of them," he added. "It counts as three points. It doesn't win us a trophy."
Villas-Boas stood by Terry when allegations were first made against the defender last October, but he admits the centre-back's absence will boost his side's chances of a win.
"Obviously you have to make sure to take into account that this is an extremely good player, an experienced player and Chelsea's captain," Villas-Boas said.
"A player of this dimension is always surely missed. But the other centre-backs are tremendously good too," he said.
"But obviously [Terry] is a player of massive experience, and an emotional leader that can push the others through," the Portuguese coach added. "He's certainly someone who will be missed by Chelsea, but the options they have are extremely good."
Villas-Boas is expected to stick with England's Jermain Defoe as his side's lone striker, with Emmanuel Adebayor remaining on the bench, but faces a tough decision between Brad Friedel and Hugo Lloris for the keeper spot. Spurs will once again be without midfielder Scott Parker and left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto, reportedly a target for Chelsea if Ashley Cole leaves at the end of the season.
Di Matteo will call up Gary Cahill to deputise for Terry alongside David Luiz, with Cole set to start 48 hours after being fined £90,000 (HK$1.13 million) for his abusive tweet directed at the FA following criticism of his role in the Terry case.
Fernando Torres will again lead the Chelsea attack after revealing last week the depth of his personal frustration last season, when he struggled to get into the Blues starting line-up ahead of the now departed Didier Drogba.