Christmas is traditionally a time for reuniting with family and friends, and on Sunday Jose Mourinho and former protege Frank Lampard will come together once again as Tottenham face Chelsea in north London.
The pair enjoyed huge success together at Stamford Bridge, but Mourinho can expect an acrimonious and hostile reception from the travelling Chelsea fans, to whom he was once considered family – but no more.
Since joining Tottenham those bridges have been well and truly burned. Chelsea consider Spurs their biggest rivals and, in recent history, the pair have regularly battled for a position in the top four.
That much is true again this season and, with Lampard’s side clutching a three-point advantage, Spurs will know they can leapfrog Chelsea into the Champions League places this weekend with a win.
It is a situation that looked highly improbable just last month, when Chelsea had gone on a six-game winning run in the Premier League to create a gap to the chasing pack.
They have since suffered defeats to Manchester City, West Ham, Everton and Bournemouth in their last five league matches, leaving them trailing third-placed City by six points and league leaders Liverpool by 20 points (Skysports).
Meanwhile, Tottenham, whose league form had become so abysmal that they parted ways with Mauricio Pochettino, have been resurrected under Mourinho.
Four wins in five (Whoscored) has seen Spurs quickly climb the table, past Manchester United and, more importantly, Arsenal, to establish themselves as the biggest threat to Chelsea’s position.
But what has gone wrong for the free-flowing Blues in recent weeks after they were so keenly praised for their young guns approach earlier this campaign?
Most notably, the goals have dried up. Chelsea failed to score in a league match for the first time since the opening day in the West Ham defeat and would two weeks later suffer the same fate against Bournemouth, losing 1-0.
A lack of creativity
Their four goals in five league games (Whoscored) is their lowest return so far under Lampard, having started the season by putting three past Norwich, five past Wolves and two past Sheffield United, which in retrospect was no easy feat.
Even prior to their recent decline, they had scored 15 in six games.
Tammy Abraham’s single goal in five games after a flurry to start the campaign is the biggest sign of the team’s reduced creative output, while Christian Pulisic and Willian have not scored at all in that time.
Goals have been a particular problem at home, with Chelsea netting just 11 in nine league matches, and the defeat to Bournemouth last time out led to Lampard urging his side to show more “personality” in their performances at Stamford Bridge.
The good news for the Blues then this weekend is that they will be away, while it has also been against teams in bad form that Chelsea have struggled.
All of West Ham, Everton and Bournemouth came into games with Chelsea amid a poor spell and produced a deep and compact defensive performance, highlighting the struggles of Lampard’s side in breaking down opponents.
It was a similar story in west London last year when fans grew frustrated with Maurizio Sarri’s slow, possession-based football; against Bournemouth they had 67% of the ball but an expected goal rating of just 2.02.
One of the key issues appears to be a reduced output from midfield, with 20-year-old Mason Mount’s form tailing off after a trailblazing start to his senior career at Chelsea.
Pulisic’s run of goal-scoring performances have also diminished and Lampard’s side have suffered as a result.
Both have scored five goals this campaign, but they have each only created three so-called big chances, which the Premier League defines as an opportunity a player would be reasonably expected to score.
That is fewer than team-mates Jorginho and Willian’s five, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane’s seven, and a long way off the 15 of City’s Kevin De Bruyne, who is in a league of his own.
They are not solely to blame, but it is clear that they have been struggling to create chances, particularly against the defensive set-ups they have faced of late.
Lampard will be hoping a trip to Tottenham will galvanise them and play into their strengths, especially as Spurs will be looking to win.
However, it would be just like Mourinho to set up in a way to frustrate Chelsea and spoil their party once more.