Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino said returning to former club and Premier League leader Tottenham Hotspur would be a special but strange moment when the two teams face off in a London derby on Monday.
Pochettino was in charge of Spurs from 2014 to 2019, transforming them into a perennial top four contender while also guiding them to its first Champions League final in 2019 when they finished as the runners-up.
Spurs never bounced back from that loss and he was sacked in November 2019, eventually signing for Paris St Germain in 2021 before taking over Chelsea in July.
“It’s special to come back after four years to a place we have amazing memories,” Pochettino told reporters on Friday.
“The most important is people know we cannot forget what we lived together... It’s not going to change my emotions, my feelings about a club where we spent an unbelievable journey.”
Spurs have cycled through four permanent managers since Pochettino’s departure and when asked if the Argentine had ever thought of returning to the north London club, he said it was never on the cards.
“After we finished our relationship with Paris Saint Germain (in July 2022), we wanted to be one year away from football. And then the offer from Chelsea arrived,” he added.
“Clubs I’ll never manage are Arsenal because I consider them the worst enemy of Tottenham and Barcelona because of Espanyol.
“It’s strange to come back because always the feeling after four years is it’s going to be a happy day for me. But that is life and we need to move on, we are professional but at the same time we are human.”
Pochettino said Spurs are genuine title contenders this season and praised Ange Postecoglou for the job he has done since taking over in the close season while also conceding Chelsea is effectively the underdog going into the contest.
“They are doing a fantastic job, Ange and the coaching staff I know very well. Very good players, very good team. It’s early in the season but they are showing the qualities to be contenders,” Pochettino said.
“We are in a different project. All the history of Chelsea is to win big things... Chelsea in the last 15 years won many titles, but now we are in a different situation where we are building something for the future.”
Chelsea has Armando Broja, Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell, Carney Chukwuemeka, Wesley Fofana, Romeo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku sidelined with injuries but Mykhailo Mudryk has returned to full team training.
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