Tony Dorigo backing Leeds United to smack another big gun on the nose at former employers Chelsea

TIMES are rather different to when former Leeds United left-back Tony Dorigo played for Chelsea.
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Ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash against the Whites at Stamford Bridge, Frank Lampard’s Blues are two points off top spot and joint third favourites to win the league.

Back in 1989, Dorigo’s Chelsea also challenged for a title and won it – the second division title that is.

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Roman Abramovich’s cash rich Blues are a different beast at the turn of the new millennium’s third decade.

CONFIDENCE: From former Leeds United left back Tony Dorigo, pictured in his playing days for the Whites. Photo by Varleys.CONFIDENCE: From former Leeds United left back Tony Dorigo, pictured in his playing days for the Whites. Photo by Varleys.
CONFIDENCE: From former Leeds United left back Tony Dorigo, pictured in his playing days for the Whites. Photo by Varleys.

Yet Dorigo knows Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites will still take in Saturday’s showdown without fear and with every chance of ‘smacking another big team on the nose’ upon their impressive top-flight return.

Newly-promoted United’s 11th fixture of the Premier League campaign offers the return of a battle between two of Dorigo’s former employers and a first league meeting between historic rivals Chelsea and Leeds for 16 years.

After signing from Aston Villa, Dorigo spent four years with the Blues between 1987 and 1991 before leaving for now first love Leeds and swiftly helping Howard Wilkinson’s Whites become champions of England in the competition’s final year as the old First Division before the country’s top flight became the Premier League.

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If Lampard has his way, Chelsea will now add a sixth Premier League title by the end of the current campaign with the Blues having also been crowned champions in 2005, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2017.

Dorigo says the third-placed Blues could well be on their way back to the top following the recent big money purchases of the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, not to mention the acquisition of Brazilian centre-back Thiago Silva.

Yet Dorigo has already seen Leeds cause big problems to two sides even more fancied for the title in Liverpool and Manchester City and sees no reason why the Blues contest cannot go the same way.

“From our point of view we should not fear anyone, absolutely not,” Dorigo told the YEP.

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“With these bigger teams, for a team like us that has just got promoted to come and smack them one on the nose straight from the off is a bit surprising and shocking and we have shown that at Liverpool and with Man City and Arsenal.

“We have played really well and had plenty of chances and I don’t see that being too much different.

“I don’t think our lads think any differently to whatever the opposition is which is a real strength of theirs because sometimes it is easy to think ‘jeez, now we are up against Chelsea, look at their players, look who they brought in the summer’, this, that and the other.

“We don’t think like that, I don’t think Marcelo Bielsa or the team think like that whatsoever.

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“They just want to go out there and put all the hard work into practice and show what they are about which is admirable because whether it’s at home or away, there doesn’t seem much difference.

“It’s just get out there, full court and give it plenty whether it is Chelsea or whoever, it really doesn’t matter.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty entertaining game again and they have got a chance of getting a result, absolutely.”

Leeds did just that in October’s Elland Road clash against title favourites Manchester City by surviving an early onslaught to give as good as they got in a 1-1 draw.

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Defending champions Liverpool also had an almighty fright on the opening day of the season in a 4-3 loss at Anfield.

City and Liverpool remain the clear big two in the betting for the Premier League title race but current leaders Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are not a million miles behind and Dorigo can definitely see the Blues challenging to be champions.

“They have certainly got the players to do that,” said Dorigo.

“Whether they have actually formulated the final XI and the final team that Frank wants I’m not sure because it is difficult to get players in and to hit the ground running.

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“But of course it’s a lot easier when you have bought the players that they have.

“Thiago Silva, wow, to get that much experience and plonk him right at the centre of defence where for me their issues have been is absolutely fantastic.

“They have now got a keeper in Mendy who looks tremendous and full of confidence.

“But it’s really at the other end of the pitch where I think they look a bit frightening to be honest because they have got some wonderfully talented players and when you buy the best German talent around in Werner and Havertz then you have certainly got to be a force to be reckoned with.

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“But how it all fits together, to me that’s still the question mark over Chelsea.

“You know they are getting better, that’s important.

“The honeymoon period for Frank is starting to be over but he’s fortunate that Roman Abramovich has backed him to the hilt and brought in some really good players for lots and lots of money.

“All that does of course is add to the pressure but I do think he will be given a little bit of time and that time is being used well at the moment.

“It will start to ramp up though it’s interesting to see what is happening at Chelsea at the moment.”

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It is, though, by his own admission, what is happening at Leeds that Dorigo now looks for first following six fine years at Elland Road and with the 54-year-old former defender now a key part of the club’s match day coverage on LUTV.

Assessing what the game means to him personally, Dorigo pondered: “It’s an interesting one and this isn’t just the typically politically correct answer that you give all the time, but every club I played for I have an affinity for, absolutely.

“I had a good time with them all to varying degrees and Chelsea was no different.

“I had four really good years there, we won the old Division Two title – the Championship title – by a street, I scored a winner at Wembley for Chelsea in the Full Members’ Cup final and all this sort of stuff so some really good memories but then you move on.

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“It is going to be difficult but with where the clubs are at the moment, you have got to look at Chelsea and obviously the financial backing that they have had and the success that they have had and everything else.

“They are just trying to get back to that kind of level right at the very top whereas Leeds have had a long way to come back from.

“Certainly my loyalties are very much with Leeds because now I do lots more for the club and I feel we deserve the points.

“We need some points, not them, they get enough points all the time!”

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Thank you Laura Collins