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Tottenham’s title credentials face Chelsea test

By AFP - Aug 13,2022 - Last updated at Aug 13,2022

Antonio Conte has been heavily backed in his first full season as Spurs boss and much is expected from his team (AFP photo)

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Tottenham lived up to pre-season hype they could challenge for the Premier League title by going top of the table on the opening weekend of the season, but face a truer test of their credentials away to Chelsea on Sunday.

Antonio Conte has been heavily backed in his first full season as Spurs boss with the signings of Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic, Djed Spence, Clement Lenglet and Fraser Forster in the transfer window.

But none of the six new faces started in an impressive 4-1 win over Southampton to underline the strength in depth now on offer to Conte.

Spurs, though, have only won once in the league at Stamford Bridge in 32 years and beating the Blues would send an early season statement of intent that they can bridge the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool.

Chelsea also got off to a winning start in less flamboyant fashion as they needed a Jorginho penalty to see off Everton 1-0.

Thomas Tuchel has demanded an improvement this weekend, but believes Chelsea will get better as the season goes on after a turbulent 2022 that saw the club suffer sanctions before Todd Boehly’s consortium took control from Roman Abramovich.

The American has not held back in backing Tuchel with the signings of Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marc Cucurella and Carney Chukwuemeka.

And Sterling believes Chelsea are also on the up as he outlined his reasoning for leaving Manchester City on Thursday.

“You look at Chelsea in the last couple of years, it’s four or five finals that they’ve been in,” said the England international. 

“It’s a team that shows that they are competing and they’re only going to get better. So with the new ownership and the takeover it made a lot of sense.”

Steven Gerrard won his first managerial clash with former England teammate Frank Lampard as Aston Villa beat Everton 2-1 to get off the mark in the Premier League.

Goals from Danny Ings and Emi Buendia eased the pressure on Gerrard after a run of two wins in their previous 12 games dating back to last season.

However, Villa had to survive a nervy finish as Lucas Digne’s own goal gave Everton hope before Emi Martinez denied Anthony Gordon an equaliser in stoppage time.

“I always expected when we conceded that sloppy goal that there would be a bit of nervousness towards the end. That was a big test of our character and resilience and we managed to stay firm,” said Gerrard.

“We did enough to get over the line and I think we deserved the win.”

Gerrard was in the firing line after a 2-0 defeat to newly-promoted Bournemouth on the opening weekend of the season.

The former Liverpool captain had also controversially dropped Tyrone Mings last weekend after stripping the England centre-back of the club captaincy.

Mings was restored at the heart of the Villa defence, but their problems defending set-pieces persisted.

Lampard’s men are badly missing the presence of the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front, but were a constant threat from dead balls.

Manchester United had arguably the worst opening weekend of all as Brighton won 2-1 on August 7 for the first time at Old Trafford to burst any bubble of optimism for a fresh start under Erik ten Hag.

The Dutch coach’s decision to start Christian Eriksen in an unfamiliar role as a false nine has been criticised after the Dane shone once he was restored to his normal midfield role in the second-half.

Ten Hag is badly in need of a response at Brentford this weekend and has a big decision to make on whether to recall Cristiano Ronaldo to the starting line-up.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner started on the bench against Brighton due to a lack of pre-season training as he looks for an exit to join a Champions League club before the end of the transfer window.

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