ROMELU LUKAKU knows the best way of making up with the Chelsea fans tonight would be by straining his friendship with Antonio Conte.
Conte’s return to Stamford Bridge for the first time since his acrimonious departure in 2018 has been overshadowed by the behind-the-scenes fall-out between Lukaku and Thomas Tuchel.
While some Blues fans will have been appeased by Lukaku’s personal 'apology' to his manager, many will seek a more public show of fealty to the Chelsea cause.
And there would be nothing more designed to get the Belgian back in the supporters’ good books than by putting on a Carabao Cup show to take his side a giant step closer to a Wembley final.
Lukaku will have all the attention tonight, assuming he is selected.
How he deals with that, against a Spurs side likely to be without Eric Dier but which could include Argentine Cristian Romero, will be critical.
Turn up for a performance to remember, show he wants to put the past few days behind him, and Lukaku knows the home fans will roar him on.
Demonstrate any sort of sulky side, though, and it could get a little messy – even against Spurs, the one team they REALLY want to beat.
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To suggest Chelsea fans are not well-disposed towards Tottenham is one of the great understatements.
Seething animosity to all the Cockerel represents has become something of an ancestral birthright.
With Conte the latest in the line of former Chelsea bosses to rock up in N17, that is even more the case.
But where Chelsea supporters always knew Glenn Hoddle would be a Spurs boss at some stage, felt that Daniel Levy had bought a pup when he appointed Andre Villas-Boas and hoped that Jose Mourinho’s star was in the descendant when he replaced Mauricio Pochettino, they know that Conte remains the real deal.
Any doubts over that have been dismissed by the Italian’s immediate impact in North London.
When Conte took over from sacked Nuno Espirito Santo, Spurs looked adrift and woebegone, a club in crisis. Eighth and falling.
Two months on and things look very different.
Spurs, under Conte, are a different side, having dropped just six points out of the last 24.
In the same period, Chelsea have squandered 15 points out of 33.
Despite that, with home advantage, and a history of coming out on top in the games that really count, Chelsea are favourites, not just this even, but over the two legs.
After all, they crushed Nuno’s Spurs earlier this season and go into the game in second place, four spots above Conte’s men.
But none of that will count this evening.
Don’t even try to pretend the League Cup doesn’t matter any more. Not when you have this amount of extra propulsion.
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