Two of the Premier League’s early frontrunners meet at White Hart Lane on Saturday in a match that has been dominated by the talk of the master versus the apprentice, where Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea will take on Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham, but the match will have a distinctive South American influence running through it. “This is a real Clasico,” says Spurs Brazilian import Paulinho.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Paulinho has admitted that “friendship goes to one side” when he faces a contingent of his Selecao team-mates, with Oscar, Ramires, Willian and David Luiz set to go up against the £17m summer signing.
“There is a level of affection there, a friendship between us all,” Paulinho says. “But when we step onto the field of play we are there to defend ourselves and defend our team so I will be there fighting for Tottenham Hotspur. It’s a big match here in London, and in Brazil, where many people will watch, and it’s important for us, as a stepping stone also to win more games.”
Having already tasted defeat in the north London derby, Paulinho already knows the importance of these all-London clashes, and hopes to get one over the Blues on Saturday to clarify Spurs’ title credentials that they are not just there to compete for the top four.
“We faced Arsenal and did not get the result we wanted [a 1-0 defeat],” admitted the Brazilian. “But we are going down the right path so it’s great to have this opportunity to play against Chelsea in order to prove our level. Within the club we know our ability and this will start with this match against Chelsea.”
Villas-Boas convinced Paulinho that he should leave Brazilian giants Corinthians to join the Lilywhites, with trophies and league titles on the agenda. Spurs missed out by the narrowest of margins last season, when they finished fifth after the Gunners just beaten them to the final Champions League qualification position.
But they have started this season strongly, if anything unspectacularly, to sit second in the table, and a win over one of the pre-season favourites for the title would do their campaign a world of good in convincing the rest of the country that they mean business this season, having sold their prized-asset Gareth Bale.
“The main challenge that he put forward was qualifying for the Champions League and fighting for the Premier League. After that there are the cups – either in England or in Europe," Paulinho says. "Tottenham are a team that is going to enter these competitions to win them. Step by step we are reaching that level.”
Paulinho opened his scoring account for Spurs with his last-gasp goal against Cardiff City last weekend securing a 1-0 victory to keep them hot on the heels of Arsenal at the top. His neatly finished back-heel capped an impressive performance from the 25-year-old, and he appears to have taken little time to settle into life in London.