Richard Buxton: Conte can seek inspiration from 2012
Six years ago, Di Matteo's unfancied Blues stunned Barcelona en route to title
Chelsea's history in adversity could again prove to be their greatest strength.
An underwhelming season will hang by the thread of a make-or-break trip to the Nou Camp tomorrow morning (Singapore time); one where a costly Spanish striker has abjectly failed to deliver while their manager's future appears destined to end ignominiously this summer.
- Teams tied at 1-1 after first leg
Ambitions of winning another EPL title have ended as quickly as they began, with only winning the Champions League offering a viable route into next season's competition.
Against the backdrop of one of their greatest modern triumphs, beating Barcelona would provide Antonio Conte's side with a desperately needed stroll down a recent Memory Lane.
Scenes of the Blues' last trip to Catalonia for the semi-final, second leg of the 2011/2012 Champions League campaign come to mind.
Back then, they were not tipped to progress to the latter stages of Europe's elite club competition either.
Then, as now, their hosts were riding on the crest of a wave while the London side were again in the end-of-days stage with an unfancied manager who would ultimately find himself uncomfortably shuffled out of the exit door.
But Conte can take inspiration in Roberto Di Matteo's most unlikely coup in 2012, a season where Manchester City also went on to claim the EPL title.
Conte may not be held in the same esteem as his compatriot, a Chelsea hero even before delivering a long-awaited European crown at the end of that campaign six years ago, yet there is a greater impetus with the current Italian under siege in the Stamford Bridge dugout.
Di Matteo's side won 1-0 in the first leg at home, thanks to a Didier Drogba goal, and sought to consolidate that advantage in the return leg at the Nou Camp.
They had defended resolutely and yet, still had to fight back in a breathless four-goal thriller which flew in the face of his conservative approach.
Fernando Torres' injury-time strike eventually saw them draw 2-2 to advance to the final.
Conte, however, holds all the cards this time around.
One misfiring Madrileno may have replaced another in the No. 9 shirt, with Alvaro Morata assuming Torres' former moniker, but Chelsea are greater placed than they were during their old guard's last hurrah.
Undisputedly, the odds are still stacked against them far more with Ernesto Valverde's runaway leaders in La Liga, with only one defeat on home soil since September 2016, than when Pep Guardiola prepared to walk away from the Barca hot seat.
Barcelona's unbeaten streak of 14 games in all competitions also pits Chelsea as underdogs while Lionel Messi's powers remain undiminished after 13 years at the top.
He remains the most influential player in Europe's top five leagues with a hand in 36 goals this season, both scoring and assisting.
Yet Conte possesses several aces; forearmed by the presence of ex-Barca stalwarts Pedro Rodriguez and Cesc Fabregas, while Willian's ability to spring a surprise, as he did to open the scoring in the first leg, can never be understated.
Such was the resentment in the Nou Camp's inner sanctum towards Chelsea that Messi claimed in 2006, "there are players here who hate Chelsea more than Real Madrid" and claimed a meeting with Arsenal or Manchester United was preferred.
Over a decade later, it is no longer the great war of attrition it was when they met eight times in five seasons; Barca's focus has firmly shifted back to their primary objective of usurping Real Madrid in La Liga as well as in the Champions League.
Being driven to distraction by their domestic rivals offers Conte a perfect opportunity to leave a legacy which will have Chelsea fans longing for happier times in the darkness once more.