Di Matteo backs AVB for success
Roberto di Matteo takes his Chelsea side to Tottenham on Saturday insisting Andre Villas-Boas could turn his side into champions.
The Chelsea manager served under Villas-Boas at Stamford Bridge until the 35-year-old Portuguese boss was sacked last March.
Di Matteo took over as caretaker and guided Chelsea to FA Cup success and their first-ever European Cup triumph before landing the manager's job permanently in the summer.
They will clash as opponents for the first time on the White Hart Lane touchline but Di Matteo, whose team lead the Premier League by four points from Manchester United, believes Villas-Boas could be on the verge of something special.
Asked whether Tottenham under Villas-Boas are a team who can win the league, Di Matteo said: "I think they are.
"I have talked about United, Manchester City, ourselves and Arsenal and I said there could be a surprise.
"Spurs over the years have established themselves in the top five and are getting closer and closer to the top."
Tottenham currently lie fifth, five points behind Chelsea, but Di Matteo is wary of their attacking potential in a passionate London derby.
"Spurs are a very dangerous counter-attacking team with the pace they have in the team with Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe," said Di Matteo. "They are all pacy players.
"We have not won at White Hart Lane for a long, long time and that shows how strong Tottenham have become over the last five or six years."
Di Matteo has maintained a good relationship with Villas-Boas and insists his sacking at Chelsea is no reflection on his talents as a football coach.
"If you get sacked it doesn't mean you are a bad coach," said Di Matteo, who was sacked himself at West Brom before arriving at Stamford Bridge. "It is not a measure for how good you are
"He's a bright man, a talented coach and he was very successful at Porto. I'm not surprised he's doing well.
"It's the first time we are playing against each other. My mind is more focused on the Tottenham team than on him. It will be the same for him.
"We have a very good relationship and respect for each other but we will both want to beat each other."
Frank Lampard and Ryan Bertrand return to the Chelsea squad following injury and John Terry will be at White Hart Lane as a spectator at the start of his four-match FA ban.
Di Matteo said: "It's going to be a very important two weeks for us. Playing two teams in the league (Tottenham and Manchester United) with the same ambitions we have without one of our players, but I am sure the others will step up to it.
"We have had some games without John Terry before so I think we are well equipped."