Chelsea vs Spurs: Mauricio Pochettino could rue the day he invited Antonio Conte to Tottenham ahead of derby

Pochettino allowed then-Italy manager to watch Tottenham's training session last year, but on Saturday he arrives as the man looking to end their unbeaten start to the season

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The Independent Football

Mauricio Pochettino may have cause to regret the decision to invite Antonio Conte to observe Tottenham Hotspur’s training sessions last year if his side leave Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening having lost their unbeaten league record.

Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, opened the doors of his club’s Enfield training headquarters to Conte, then in charge of Italy, as the Italian undertook an information-gathering tour of three Premier League clubs, including Chelsea, then heading towards the title under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, in February 2015.

Almost two years on, the pair meet in very different circumstances as managers of fierce rivals who will resume hostilities for the first time since Chelsea recovered from two goals down last May to claim the draw that ended Tottenham’s title aspirations as well as denying the north London club a first victory at Stamford Bridge since 1990.

The fall-out of from that bad-tempered meeting remains raw although the progress of both clubs this season means there is a fresh agenda to follow. Chelsea are attempting to register a sixth successive win that will preserve their position at the head of the table while Pochettino’s side are hoping to translate their unbeaten run into a more commanding position in the table.

Conte, though, insists there is no reason for tension on the touchline. “I consider Mauricio one of the best managers,” said Conte. “And yes, I tell him thank you again in this situation because I had the possibility to visit the training ground and speak with him, to see their training session. I spoke with him and his staff, and we watched a video. I remember that day with great emotion because we spoke a lot about football. This was the first time I’d met him.

“I wanted to come in England and compare my ideas and watch the training sessions. My visit was at West Ham, three days, and Tottenham and Chelsea. It was a fantastic work trip. I watched the training sessions. I spoke with different managers: with Sam Allardyce, with Pochettino and Jose Mourinho here. And it was fantastic because when I have the possibility to compare my ideas and my work with the work of the others, for me it's a moment where I can learn a lot.”

Not that the two managers shared all their secrets. “When there is a discussion between two managers, you talk about football, but not completely about your ideas,” said Conte. “You can talk about 30/35% of your ideas. The other 65% of your ideas you keep for yourself. It's logical this, for me and the other managers. You study a lot.”

Conte knows the relationship between the two sets of players will be less cordial but he has warned his side they cannot afford to allow their focus to be affected by the nature of the occasion. “You lose or win a championship over many games. Not with one match,” he said. “I always told that to my players. Don't find an excuse and fight. Because you lose and win for 38 league games, not for one game.”

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