Chelsea's 4-2 win at White Hart Lane led to André Villas-Boas predicting they could sustain an authentic title challenge. "This kind of form is what we saw last year with Man City," the Spurs manager said of his former club. "They have gone to Arsenal and won, they have come here and won. These are difficult places to play in this league but at the moment they are at the top of their game."
Di Matteo said it was "too early" to consider whether Chelsea could hold off the two Manchester clubs but the manager said his players deserved credit for such an emphatic performance in their first match since Terry started his four-match ban. "It [the Terry issue] has been going on for a long time and we have just tried to focus on what is our priority, the football aspect. We haven't been distracted and just focused on the football. We have done that well."
Di Matteo went on to back the club's decision not to strip Terry of the captaincy after the Football Association ruling that the former England captain had racially abused Anton Ferdinand. The club have decided to fine Terry instead and the Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, said it was "by far" the largest punishment a player from Stamford Bridge had ever received.
"John will continue to be captain of the club," Buck said. "We have taken disciplinary action and we think it is firm disciplinary action and appropriate for the circumstances."
Chelsea's club charter states they have a "zero tolerance" policy for anyone found guilty of discrimination and Buck had to fend off the suggestion that the club had been too soft on their player.
"We have kept it mind first of all that a court of criminal law found him not guilty," he said. "Of course we also note the FA decision and we certainly respect that decision. We've kept these factors in mind, we've consulted with the owner Mr [Roman] Abramovich.
"This is not a decision we've taken lightly. It's not a decision we took in a half-hour meeting. We discussed it over a long period of time and we think we've taken appropriate disciplinary action."
The club's chief executive, Ron Gourlay, said Terry's long service should also be taken into account. "What you've got to take into consideration as well is John's played over 550 times for the club. He's captained the side over 400 times, he's led the club and the team tremendously well during these games.
"We believe this was an error of judgment, it was out of character for John. He did fall below the high standards we expect. The language used on the day, whatever the context, was wrong. We've come down on John very, very heavily.
"We are not sweeping this under the carpet. We have had to deal with this for the last 12 months. John let himself down, he let the club down, the words were inappropriate that he used."
Di Matteo said: "The board made a decision and I respect the board's decision. I would have respected the decision because I had an input and we had discussions but ultimately they decide."
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