Stamford Bridge has not been a happy hunting ground for Tottenham Hotspur pre-dating the Roman Abramovich era of Chelsea.
Their last win in this part of west London came in 2018, with current boss Antonio Conte in the Blues dugout that day. That was the only time in the last 32 years in which Spurs have left Stamford Bridge as victors.
As is the case whenever Chelsea and Tottenham meet, there were plenty of narratives in the air ahead of the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.
Romelu Lukaku’s blockbuster interview with Italian media that threatened to tear apart Chelsea’s season and his subsequent return to the starting lineup became the dominant story, overshadowing even that of Conte’s first return to the Bridge since his £26m sacking in 2018.
The Belgian’s actions meant that a potentially damage-controlling sentiment from Conte flew under the radar – Chelsea are a lot further along in their ‘process’ than Spurs.
The Italian tactician has made a tremendous start to life back in England, with Wednesday’s night 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge his first domestically since taking charge.
Spurs have muscled their way back into contention for a Champions League place – an objective that looked a mere pipe-dream when Conte was first appointed.
And while the season may end with only three teams in England finishing higher than Tottenham in the standings, they still have a way to go to compete with that trio in all departments.
Chelsea were able to make five changes to their starting lineup from their weekend draw with Liverpool – including compensating for the positive Covid-19 tests of N’Golo Kante and Thiago Silva – and yet looked the real deal. Spurs were without only three of their starters from their strongest XI – all defenders – but looked way off the pace.
There was a lot of talk about Spurs‘ mentality that went quiet in the last two months because of the promising strides they’ve made under Conte, but this defeat was the clearest example of the challenges the Italian faces in turning this team into winners – a philosophy he explained at length in his pre-match press conference.
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were nowhere to be seen in a crucial cup game again, with evidence gathering that they are contributing to Spurs’ failure to get over their trophy hump as much as they are in spite of silverware.
For all of Chelsea’s dominance, their two-goal lead is slim and could be overturned or at least put under pressure with relative ease next week. But as Conte preached both pre and post-match, Spurs are not on the European champions’ level and they must accept that.