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SOCCER

Chelsea tries to preserve unbeaten start vs. Tottenham

Chelsea's form to open the season has been a pleasant surprise for Blues supporters, but the club's toughest test thus far is slated for Saturday when it heads to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham in the latest London derby.

The Blues sit atop the Premier League table with 19 points through seven games, boasting one of only two unbeaten records in England's top flight along with reigning champion Manchester City.

Saturday's tilt will mark the first time that Chelsea takes on Tottenham since former Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas made the switch to Spurs.

While emotions are likely to be high, current Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo is choosing to focus on Tottenham's recent success in league play as opposed to the supplemental points of interest.

"We are more focused playing against Tottenham, a team in very good form with four consecutive wins," Di Matteo said. "We haven't won in the league there since 2005, a very long time, and they are always difficult games for us to play as well. I don't think in their mind it is about revenge, it is more about playing against the club and the good players they have."

Chelsea will be without defender and captain John Terry, who will begin serving a four-game suspension for racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand last term.

The Blues will, however, welcome Frank Lampard and Ryan Bertrand back to the fold after the duo missed England's two matches during the break for international fixtures. All of Chelsea's other players participating in the slew of international matches returned to London healthy.

"Fortunately they all got back healthy and without injuries," reported Di Matteo. "Ryan and Frank joined the group yesterday for the first time so had two full training sessions with us and will be available for [Saturday]."

Chelsea's main title rivals will return to action on Saturday as well. Manchester United and Manchester City are tied for second place on 15 points apiece. The Red Devils will welcome Stoke City to Old Trafford while the Citizens will head to the Hawthorns to take on West Bromwich.

Also on Saturday, Fulham welcomes Aston Villa to Craven Cottage, Liverpool hosts Reading at Anfield, Swansea City faces Wigan at the Liberty Stadium, Southampton heads to Upton Park to take on West Ham, and Norwich City looks to avoid a fourth successive loss when it faces Arsenal at Carrow Road.

And on Sunday, Sunderland and Newcastle square off at the Stadium of Light in a critical Tyne-Wear derby while QPR welcomes Everton to Loftus Road.