Another week dawns, bringing another week of challenges for Chelsea, footballing challenges that the champions of Europe and -Premier League leaders are eager to accept. Roberto Di Matteo's side face Shakhtar Donetsk away tomorrow and Manchester United at home on Sunday in a week which will give a greater indication of their ability to add to their trophy cabinet.
They won the FA Cup and Cham-pions League last season with a mixture of defiance and organisation. Now they are a far more fluid force.
"What has changed is our attitude,'' reflected Di Matteo after a deserved victory at White Hart Lane on Saturday. "We go away and play with the same attitude we have at home, so we take the initiative, we don't just give it to the opposition. We want to impose ourselves, whether away or at home."
What has also changed, self--evidently, is the expansion of Chelsea's creative department with the arrival of Eden Hazard and Oscar, forming the three musketeers with Juan Mata, cutting defences like Spurs' to ribbons. "We have been lucky with the way the players we signed have settled into the club quickly and into the Premier League," Di Matteo said.
"That's thanks to the players already here, particularly with Oscar, as the Spanish and Portuguese -players have helped him integrate quicker. I speak a little bit of Spanish with Oscar. He understands English if I speak slowly. Eden understands English OK. Hazard has slotted in very easily, like Mata last season, and they seem to have a good understanding."
Mata gave an insight into the -system. "The three behind the striker [Fernando Torres] always try to play with movement, swapping positions and trying to assist our striker,'' said Chelsea's No?10. "We have to work in training but we are players who play like this naturally as well. I don't think it is a surprise. Oscar, Hazard, -Fernando are top players. If you can win and also play really well, it is the perfect way."
The man who brought Mata to England, Andre Villas-Boas, praised the style of his old club. "This fluidity they have with those three players behind Fernando is tremendous and you have Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge on the bench, so it looks good," the Spurs manager said. "It's difficult because these are players who can beat their man. If you press or stay low these are players who can beat this kind of systems. At the moment they are playing at tremendous level and to counter them is extremely difficult."
Spurs tried in an entertaining game at the Lane. The first half was good, spiced by Gary Cahill's volley to give Chelsea the lead. Mata twice went close, as did Clint -Dempsey before the excellent Ashley Cole cleared a Jermain Defoe effort off the line. The second half was even -better.
The home dressing room staged an important confab at the break. "We told each other to press higher up the pitch because their centre-backs were playing much too easily," Jan Vertonghen said. "When we pressed them we had a few good chances."
William Gallas equalised from a corner. Then Defoe pounced, drawing praise from his manager. "He's picking up form and looking sharp and works well with the team," said Villas-Boas.
But there is such technical quality in Chelsea's side, such will to win. Mata struck twice in three minutes, then created Daniel Sturridge's coup de grace. "At the moment they're in form,'' Villas-Boas said. "Levels of form are difficult to keep. Sometimes it takes a poor result to affect your run and you have to bounce back like we have to now. The Premiership is about these ups and downs and we have to hope."
Di Matteo was certainly not getting carried away by a four-point lead over United and City. "There has been a 10-12 points' advantage given up by teams," he warned. Mata said they must build on the start. "We have to try to translate this momentum into the whole season. In November and in December you have a lot of games so we have to keep fighting for the title in those two months. November and December are the most important moments in the season."
Mata added that he hoped Villas-Boas would succeed at Spurs. "He gave me a lot of confidence to play at Chelsea in the beginning and I wish him the best luck, not against Chelsea of course, but he is a very, very good guy,'' said Mata.
Spurs are still rebuilding, still -dealing with questions. Are they over-reliant on Gareth Bale? The Welshman missed the game as his partner had gone into labour. "He would have made a huge difference, he's an amazing player but we respect his situation of course," Vertonghen said.
Can Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor play together? "An option of two strikers is one of our strongest possibilities,'' argued Villas-Boas. "They linked very well and so it's something that can happen." Can Spurs learn to sustain form for two halves, not one? Is -Gallas still worth persevering with? "He is our captain and an important player,'' replied Vertonghen. Younes Kaboul is much missed.
Talking of absent -centre-halves, John Terry starts against Shakhtar and Mata will welcome him back.
"For me and for the team-mates talking about him, he is always about a legend," Mata said. "I am really good with him, happy to train and play games with him. He is a really good guy. As a defender he is a key player for us."