Roberto Di Matteo used the old adage that there are no easy games when discussing Tuesday night’s Champions League group game against FC Nordsjaelland in Copenhagen.
The manager knows that as reigning European champions, we will be heavy favourites against the first-time qualifiers, despite the game taking place on Danish soil, but has warned we must be on top of our game if we are to take anything from matchday two.
There is also pressure to win, having surrendered a two-goal lead at home to Juventus a fortnight ago in our opening Group E fixture.
‘For us it’s probably the most important game in the group because we drew the first game at home so it’s important we gain points away from home,’ Di Matteo said. ‘For us it’s a crucial game and I want the team to be focused. It’s going to be a strong team and there might be some changes because we played a very intense game on Saturday. A win would certainly help and that’s what we are aiming for.
‘We know from the past in the Champions League that there are no easy games, especially away from home. It’s very difficult and Nordsjaelland have shown how good they are when they went to Shakhtar and had the majority of possession. They’re not afraid to play their football and it’s going to be difficult for us. We are probably favourites on paper but we have to show that on the pitch.
‘We watched Nordsjaelland a lot and I had the pleasure to meet their coach Kasper Hjulmand in Switzerland at the Uefa elite coaches conference. It’s a fantastic story winning the league for the first time with a young coach and developing a brand of football the coach likes, [but] we like to have the ball as well.
‘We are putting a big emphasis on possession and as long as we have the ball then the opposition can’t score, so hopefully we will have more of the ball than Nordsjaelland and will try and create chances, but their philosophy is on possession and it will be an interesting game.’
It was put to Di Matteo that games like this provide validation of Uefa’s Financial Fair Play policy, and the Italian admitted he was all in favour of sanctions that create a level playing field.
‘We as a club are in favour of Financial Fair Play,’ he commented. ‘We are doing everything to be within those new laws and rules, and I think we are on course for it. Also I do think it’s unsustainable the way clubs have been run in the past.
‘Every year you see some club going into administration or out of business which is not good. The amount of debt football clubs have in England and around Europe is unsustainable, so everybody welcomes these new rules.’
Di Matteo also suggested Frank Lampard may return to the starting line-up on Tuesday, and stressed the 34-year-old remains a key figure despite not starting since Juventus.
‘He is a very important player for us. I’ve had conversations with him, which I do on a regular basis,’ confirmed the manager. ‘I like to exchange opinions and he is very supportive of the team when he is not in it, and when he is in it he is a great performer.
‘We’re fortunate to have a very strong squad with very good players. Going forward with a busy schedule it’s important we can use these players.’
Di Matteo also suggested Lampard will not be restricted to a deeper holding midfield role, despite the 4-2-3-1 shape.
‘He’s been playing that role but I don’t think I’ve ever taken [the forward running] away from him or said he’s not allowed to.
‘It’s his strength, but in that role sometimes we need to be disciplined and it’s important for the balance of the team. He’s played magnificently last season and this season too so there are no concerns about him.’
You will be able to know who Di Matteo selects for his team first on Tuesday with Chelsea Mobile.