DI MATTEO: ALWAYS DIFFICULT

Chelsea face our third game in the space of a week tomorrow when we welcome Stoke City to Stamford Bridge, but with only one major injury concern, and a Brazilian fresh from a fantastic full debut in midweek, manager Roberto Di Matteo is hopeful we can consolidate our place at the top of the Premier League…

Squad news
Daniel Sturridge picked up a hamstring injury in the build-up to Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Juventus, and the Italian confirmed that the 23-year-oldĀ is the only fresh injury doubt going into tomorrow’s game.

Oscar, meanwhile, following his stunning full debut for the club in midweek, has recovered after being stamped on midway through the second-half against Juventus – a foul which led to his withdrawal – and is available for selection.

‘[Daniel] Sturridge is better but not quite ready for tomorrow,’ Di Matteo explained. ‘We’ll have to assess him, if he doesn’t make the Capital One Cup [against Wolverhampton Wanderers], it shouldn’t be much longer.

‘Injuries can happen to any player, we go into the game not thinking about injuries.

‘Oscar has recovered. He did some light training so should be fine. It was a spectacular debut and we hope to see it more often.

‘We’d seen his quality in training but it was great to see it in a big game against brilliant opposition, we’re delighted to have him here.’

On facing Stoke City
Matches against Tony Pulis’ side are notoriously difficult affairs, with tomorrow’s game a completely different type of test to the one we faced against Juventus.

Last season’s corresponding fixture – one of Di Matteo’s first games in charge after being handed the reins – saw us run out 1-0 winners courtesy of a second-half Didier Drogba goal, and the manager is expecting another tricky encounter.

‘Stoke haven’t been involved in a game this week, which we need to take into consideration,’ he said.

‘It’s always a difficult game against them and we have found it hard to break them down. It’s not just due to their physical approach, they are very well organised defensively as well.

‘Michael Owen is a natural goalscorer, he’s a very good signing for Stoke. I was a bit surprised as he’s not very tall, like a lot of their players, but he’s still very dangerous and I’m sure they will benefit from his qualities.’

On our perceived lack of striking options
Much has been made of the fact we only have two recognised strikers at the club following the departures of Drogba and Salomon Kalou, along with the decision to allow Romelu Lukaku to join West Bromwich Albion on-loan for the remainder of the campaign.

The injury to Sturridge has highlighted what many critics see as a big weakness, but Di Matteo believes it’s down to the rest of the team to chip in and lighten the burden on Fernando Torres.

‘We don’t want to put pressure on one player to score all the goals, it’s the same as it was last season, we need to spread the goals around,’ he explained.

‘We’ve signed a different type of player. [Juan] Mata scored many goals last season, [Eden] Hazard has scored, Oscar scored two on Wednesday and Lamps [Frank Lampard] also scores, so we certainly have goals in the team.’

In other news
Di Matteo reflected on letting a two-goal lead slip in our first Champions League game of the season, but believes there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic following Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against Juventus.

‘We need to be more consistent throughout the whole game and completely focused,’ he said. ‘For long parts we did well, but we got punished for a couple of mistakes.

‘We are trying to improve all the time, we are working hard on the training pitch and trying to find a solution to ensure these things don’t happen.’

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