London (AFP) – Frank Lampard insists he doesn’t want to emulate Jose Mourinho’s unique style as the Chelsea manager plots to out-wit his old boss in Sunday’s crucial clash at Tottenham.
Lampard’s first Premier League meeting with Mourinho is the headline act in a fascinating derby that will determine which of the London rivals spends Christmas Day in the top four.
Spurs manager Mourinho played a key role in Lampard’s emergence as one of Chelsea’s all-time greats during their time together at Stamford Bridge.
Yet while Mourinho’s managerial credentials are well established after winning a host of trophies during his glittering 19-year career, Lampard is still carving out a name for himself in the coaching world.
The former England midfielder is in just his second season as a manager after leaving Championship side Derby to take charge at Chelsea in July.
Lampard acknowledges Mourinho was a big influence on him as a player but, now he is in the dug-out, he will follow his own path rather than copy the Portuguese coach.
Asked to name the most important lesson he took from working with Mourinho, Lampard said: “There’s not one thing, no; he’s obviously a good manager with loads of good attributes.
“But there’s not one specific thing I learned working under him, and I wouldn’t strive to be a clone or anything.
“I’m happy to go up against Jose; for me to play under him, he was a big influence in my career.”
Lampard and Mourinho remain on good terms from their Chelsea days — the Tottenham manager promising a “big hug” when they meet before kick-off and talking of his “love” for the 41-year-old.
But that didn’t stop the student admitting beating his old teacher in such an important game would be a memorable moment.
– ‘Every point is crucial’ –
Chelsea were 12 points ahead of Tottenham when Mourinho replaced the sacked Mauricio Pochettino in November.
That gap is now down to just three after Mourinho masterminded an immediate Tottenham revival with four wins from his five league games.
In contrast, Chelsea are experiencing the first major blip of Lampard’s reign after four defeats in their last five league matches.
“To go up against him for Derby against Manchester United last year was a big deal for me. And that still remains,” said Lampard in reference to last season’s win over Mourinho when they met in the League Cup third round.
“I’ll always have respect for him. The bigger thing is Chelsea-Tottenham, and what that rivalry means to our players and us.
Lampard won two league titles with Mourinho at Chelsea, but they are managerial peers now and the former England star recognises his old boss has a squad capable of denting his ambitions by knocking the Blues out of the top four.
“It should be relatively even when you look at the last four years, where Chelsea and Tottenham have been fighting to get into the top four. It’s always a competitive fixture,” Lampard said.
Mourinho’s impact at Tottenham has surprised some who claimed he was finished as a top manager after his last two jobs with Chelsea and United ended in acrimonious circumstances.
But the 56-year-old never doubted his ability to Tottenham back on track and now he wants to underline their resurgence with a statement win against Chelsea.
“When we arrived we were 12 points distance, we were closer to the bottom than the top,” Mourinho said.
“But of course we knew where we belong and we knew it was a question of time to leave this awful position and to have an approach.
“We know we can end this year in the top four. But this is not just between us and Chelsea. Manchester United are involved, Wolves are involved. Every point is crucial.”
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