Football Features

“It was always going to boil over” – The Chelsea side who sank Spurs in ‘the Battle of the Bridge’

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 11:23, 16 September 2021

At the end of the 2015/16 season, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur played out one of the most infamous Premier League games from the last decade.

With Spurs chasing the title and defending Chelsea languishing in mid-table after a horrific start to the season under José Mourinho had given interim manager Guus Hiddink a near-impossible task, a brutal 2-2 draw dubbed “The Battle of the Bridge” took place (not to be confused with the 1066 Battle of Stamford Bridge).

“It was a London derby we hadn’t lost in 26 years,” Chelsea captain John Terry said after the game.

“It was always going to boil over. A couple of times it got out of hand but players are fighting for points and titles. It’s emotions – that’s football.”

The result ended Spurs’ title hopes, crowning Leicester as Premier League champions (no, seriously) and left Mauricio Pochettino’s side with a bitter feeling in their mouths. Meanwhile, Chelsea had been woeful all season but managed to rise up and stop their London rivals claiming silverware, while also extending their long unbeaten run at home against Spurs. The Blues had done a terrible job defending their Premier League title, but such was the talent within the squad that when Antonio Conte took over in the summer of 2016, he was able to forge a team that roared to win back the title in 2016/17!

The Battle of the Bridge was iconic, and perhaps the result that really reminded Chelsea what they were capable of doing, setting the stage for their later triumphs. But where are those Chelsea players now? We’ve had a look and found out!


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Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic

2015/16 Games: 17
2015/16 Clean sheets: 4

Begovic was Thibaut Courtois’ back-up that season and, after the Belgian’s red card against Manchester City, came in to cover him for two games including the home match against Spurs. You wouldn’t solely blame Begovic for either Spurs goal but he wasn’t an intimidating presence at all.

Where are they now? The Bosnian veteran is currently playing for Everton as their back-up shot-stopper behind Jordan Pickford.

Right-back: Branislav Ivanovic

2015/16 Games: 33
2015/16 Goals: 2

The Serbian was coming to the end of his Chelsea career in 2016 but was still a faithful servant at right-back who would go to war with anyone. A useful presence to have given the fractious nature of the game.

Where are they now? He is currently without a club having been released by West Brom this past summer.

Centre-back: Gary Cahill

2015/16 Games: 23
2015/16 Goals: 2

Cahill was fast becoming a stalwart of the Chelsea defence and he even scored the Blues’ first goal on the night as he controlled a corner beautifully before arrowing it into the back of the net with his weaker left-foot!

Where are they now? Playing in the Championship for Bournemouth. Cahill had left Chelsea in 2019 and, after a short spell at Crystal Palace, moved down a division to extend his career.

Centre-back: John Terry

2015/16 Games: 24
2015/16 Goals: 1

Chelsea’s legendary captain was starting to look his age. Without the youthful Kurt Zouma next to him, Terry struggled during the season (whereas he had been incredible in 2014/15) and although he did play one more season he wasn’t a key player.

Where are they now? Most recently Terry was assistant manager to Dean Smith at Aston Villa. Terry helped get Villa back into the Premier League as well as develop the likes of Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Axel Tuanzebe using his wealth of knowledge. He quit in the summer and is currently unemployed although you suspect he has a coaching job lined up.

Left-back: Cesar Azpilicueta

2015/16 Games: 37
2015/16 Goals: 2

Despite being signed as a right-back, in 2016 Azpilicueta was still suffering from the tactical hangover José Mourinho left the club with and was out playing left-back. Now, he did that well so no one complained, but his game went to the next level the following season when Antonio Conte moved him back over to the right (of a back-three).

Where are they now? Azpilicueta is current Chelsea captain and has lifted the Europa League and Champions League as Blues skipper. He will now have his eyes set on hoisting the Premier League aloft (he’s done it twice, but never as captain) at season’s end.

Defensive midfield: John Obi Mikel

2015/16 Games: 25
2015/16 Goals: 0

John Obi Mikel was playing his last full season for Chelsea. He technically stayed one more year but didn’t play and went on loan to Tianjin TEDA in January. That night at the Bridge he was a rock solid presence in midfield.

Where are they now? John Obi Mikel is currently playing for Kuwait SC.

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Defensive midfield: Nemanja Matic

2015/16 Games: 33
2015/16 Goals: 2

Matic was Chelsea’s box-to-box dynamo. A powerful figure he could defend and attack in equal measure and was fearsome attacking set-pieces. His work at the Bridge was huge as Chelsea sought to limit the impact of Moussa Dembélé.

Where are they now? Matic is a somewhat used rotational player for Manchester United.

Attacking midfield: Cesc Fabregas

2015/16 Games: 37
2015/16 Goals: 5

Having witnessed 2004 Battle of Old Trafford from the bench (and then thrown a pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson) the Catalan now got a chance to be involved in a brutal showdown himself and he certainly took a few horrific kicks from the Spurs lads (and a stamp on the hand).

Where are they now? Fabregas left Chelsea in 2019 to join Monaco, and he remains there to this day.

Right-wing: Willian

2015/16 Games: 35
2015/16 Goals: 5

Chelsea’s barrel-chested Brazilian was really quite something to watch back in the day. A fiercely combative and physical dribbler and goalscorer. Spurs repeatedly tried to intimidate him only for their efforts to fail as Willian seemed more than happy to fight, being involved in the brawl which led to Moussa Dembele gouging Diego Costa’s eye just before half-time.

Where are they now? Willian recently left Arsenal after just one season, and is currently back in Brazil playing for his hometown club Corinthians. He leaves the Premier League with more appearances than any Brazilian in history.

Left-wing: Pedro

2015/16 Games: 29
2015/16 Goals: 7

Another former Barcelona man in the team, Pedro should have been a roaring success in the Premier League but was only just sort of ok. He was on the end of some rough stuff from Spurs and got subbed off at half-time.

Where are they now? Pedro joined Lazio this summer to work with former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri once again.

Striker: Diego Costa

2015/16 Games: 28
2015/16 Goals: 12

You would imagine in a match as fractious as the one between Chelsea and Spurs that Diego Costa would be at the heart of all the violence and chaos but in fact he was rarely the instigator. He definitely got stuck in during the many, many melees though. He also bagged the equalising assist with a lovely through-ball.

Where are they now? Costa left Atlético Madrid to join Chelsea. And when he left Chelsea after falling out with Antonio Conte, he went back to Atleti but it was never the same. He’s currently back in Brazil playing for Atlético Mineiro.

Sub: Eden Hazard

2015/16 Games: 31
2015/16 Goals: 4

The majestic and magical Eden Hazard had sulked his way through most of the season; for a player who was one of the best in the league a season earlier (and would be one of the best in the league a season later) it was a bizarre funk. Nevertheless he had scored his first two goals of the season the week before against Bournemouth and so when he came on at half-time, you felt some magic was coming.

And sure enough, that magic came. Despite taking a massive kicking from Spurs, Hazard pushed on and scored an absolutely superhuman equaliser that saw him dribble through about five Spurs players before exchanging passes with Costa and stabbing it into the top corner, scoring the title-winning goal for the second consecutive season (albeit this time for another team).

Where are they now? Currently playing for Real Madrid after a €120m move, where he is competing with Coutinho (€160m) at Barcelona to see who can be the biggest flop of all-time. The Brazilian has the lead for now but as the game against Spurs showed us, you can never count Eden Hazard out!

Sub: Oscar

2015/16 Games: 27
2015/16 Goals: 3

Oscar was once the golden boy of both Brazilian football and Chelsea. Then Neymar and Eden Hazard took over and he became the ultimate supporting player. Came off the bench along with Hazard.

Where are they now? Oscar plays for Shanghai Port (formerly Shanghai SIPG), who he joined from Chelsea in 2017.

Manager: Guus Hiddink

The loveable Chelsea coach was on his second spell in charge of the club on an interim basis and although this spell was much less impressive than his first time in charge, the way he orchestrated Chelsea’s comeback from 0-2 down to draw 2-2 speaks to his managerial prowess and why he remains a beloved figure at Stamford Bridge.

Where are they now? Hiddink retired in September 2021 after failing to lead Curacao to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.