DI MATTEO: HIGHLY MOTIVATED

Aside from the Champions League final itself, tomorrow night’s match against Juventus is arguably the most important of Roberto Di Matteo’s tenure thus far, and he believes his side are heading into the game in a positive frame of mind, despite our recent domestic form.

The Blues require at least a draw in order to ensure our hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition remain in our own hands, but having picked up only two points from a possible 12 in the Premier League there is understandably cause for concern.

With Manchester City up next in the league on Sunday, it’s yet another massive week for the club, but Di Matteo, who returns to Italy as a manager for the first time, sees no reason as to why we can’t follow the last-gasp victory over Shakhtar Donetsk with another three points in Turin.

‘I feel confident, we have a good team and know the importance of the match tomorrow, we know we have to play a good game,’ he said.

‘At the moment we are thinking positively, we played a good game at home against Juventus, it will be difficult tomorrow for sure, but they are under pressure to win the match as well, so it will make it an interesting game.’

Much was made of Di Matteo’s decision to make five changes to the side for Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, and he hinted after the game that tomorrow night could yield a change, both in tactics and personnel, in a bid to revert back to winning ways.

The form of both Fernando Torres and David Luiz has been the subject of much speculation in the media of late, but the Italian, with the stakes so high, is eager not to make any rash decisions.

‘The selection on Saturday was dependant on internationals,’ he explained. ‘I had to consider jetlag, the reactions and the players were very tired.

‘I think it will be an open match tomorrow, they are at home so it could be an advantage, but we will be very motivated.

‘There’s still another session to do and we’ll see how the players are, then I’ll make the final decisions tonight.

‘My intention is to create as many problems as possible. I’ve seen many of their games, including the last one against Lazio, where they played very well and were very aggressive. We need to defend, of course, but attack as well.’

Our only previous win on Italian soil came back in November 2003, when a Chelsea side – under the stewardship of Claudio Ranieri – turned in a stunning performance to beat Lazio 4-0.

Juventus have failed to win their previous two home matches, with the weekend’s goalless draw against Lazio preceded by a 3-1 defeat against Inter, but the two-time winners of the tournament showed enough quality when they fought back from 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge in September to suggest that we will need to be at our very best to emerge from the impressive Juventus Stadium in a strong position in Group E.

‘We know the importance of the game so motivation will be very high,’ said the Blues boss. ‘It will be important we understand that and show the commitment which is necessary for tomorrow’s game.

‘The players have to have belief in themselves, that’s the most important aspect. We work together and we’re all in it together, we have a good team, a good group and we believe we can get a positive result.’

With his side having failed to keep a clean sheet over the course of the past nine games, Di Matteo admitted that we need to make ourselves more difficult to break down.

The return to fitness of Ashley Cole, who could start tomorrow, is a major boost, but the manager is hopeful of an all-round improved defensive display from the whole team.

‘It’s important we communicate with each other and the players express themselves, I’ve always encouraged that,’ he explained.

‘There was frustration on Saturday because of the result and this is normal when results don’t go your way. We owe ourselves a performance and anything can happen, we’ve proved in the past that when it counts our players can be relied upon.

‘Ashley is available. I think we need to have attention and focus in certain situations defensively, we have enough players to deal with that but focus will be very important.’

CAHILL: BACKING THE BACKS

Speaking on the eve of a Champions League game in Italy from which at least a point is needed to keep qualification for the knockout stage in our hands, Gary Cahill has discussed the recent defensive record and the pain of losing games.

The Blues are four games without a win in the Premier League but a last-gasp victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in our most recent European outing means victory over Juventus on Tuesday evening will guarantee a place in the last 16. A draw means victory over FC Nordsjaelland at home in the final group game will be enough to progress.

To take something from the game in Italy the players are fully aware aspects of the performance level must improve, especially the number of goals conceded recently, and Cahill, who has started five of the last six games in central defence and came on in the other insists there is nothing fundamentally wrong.

‘Of course you are going to be more open when players are trying to hurt teams with attack-minded players, but it is the same set-up as at the start of the season when we were keeping clean sheets and defending well,’ said the 26-year-old.

‘So far this season has been in two halves because up to the Tottenham game we kept six clean sheets and had one of the best defences in the league. Of late it has not been the case but it is the same personnel and now it is important we get back to the way we started the campaign.

‘It is a matter of the whole team going back to doing what we were doing defensively that brought us success.’

Cahill also spoke about the man who was his central defensive partner in the Champions League Final in Munich and for the win over Shakhtar this month, but also for Saturday’s disappointing defeat at West Brom. He was asked to compare playing with David Luiz with lining up alongside John Terry.

‘David Luiz is one of the most comfortable central defenders on the ball I have seen and he has great ability, he is a top footballer. You don’t play for a top team like Chelsea and Brazil and even captain Brazil if you are not a top footballer. John it is a different type of player but they are both fantastic.’

The players are not hiding from their responsibility to put the season back on track as disappointment in the dressing room after defeat at The Hawthorns made clear to Cahill.

‘In the short space of time I have been here, losing games has not been acceptable and when you do lose people are hurt and upset and it is a positive thing. Sometimes things need to be said and it is great to have that reaction. I would be worried if people were just going into the shower, getting dressed and getting on the bus.

‘Being part of a club like Chelsea you are expected to go out and perform and get results, but also people want to sign for Chelsea because they want to be a part of big things. The players want to win games. Even at times drawing games feels bad. It is a philosophy the club has and the players have as well.

‘From last year season when the manager took the job he has done tremendously well and achieved such a lot in a short space of time. We started the campaign really well and everyone is supporting him. He is definitely the right man as he proved last year and I am sure he will prove it again this year.

‘It is an important week but if we get the right results we will be on the right path again. We have strong characters in the dressing room and I am sure we will pull through.’

MONDAY WRAP

As always, there is a busy week ahead for the Blues, while we reflect on an encouraging weekend of action around Europe…

Here, the official Chelsea website picks out the highlights from the latest news surrounding some of our youngsters currently out on loan, as well as casting an eye over the fortunes of former Stamford Bridge favourites and Champions League opponents…

A substitute on Saturday, Juan Mata has once again posted his weekly blog as he looks back on a busy time representing Spain in Panama before our defeat to West Brom.

You can read his column here.

Looking ahead, Juventus warmed up for our crucial Champions League Group E clash with a 0-0 home draw against Lazio at the weekend, a result which leaves them four points ahead of Inter Milan at the top of Serie A.

Antonio Conte’s side dominated the game, both in terms of possession and chances, but Federico Marchetti, the Lazio goalkeeper, was in inspired form, producing a string of important saves to frustrate the hosts.

Juventus have looked far from formidable at home of late, with Sunday’s stalemate following a 3-1 defeat to Inter earlier this month, and Roberto Di Matteo will be hoping their stutter continues tomorrow night.

Juventus

Shakhtar Donetsk, meanwhile, suffered their first defeat of the domestic season when they were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal Kyiv.

Donetsk, who currently top Group E, can secure their place in the knockout stages with a victory over FC Nordsjaelland tomorrow night in Copenhagen, and manager Mircea Lucescu will undoubtedly be looking for a reaction from his players following their shock setback.

The dismissal of Yaroslav Rakitskiy three minutes after the break with Shakhtar already trailing 1-0 made the task all the more difficult, and their misery was compounded when the home side doubled their advantage in the 90th minute.

The Danish side, who are yet to win in the Champions League, have no chance of qualifying for the knockout stages, but they go into the game against Shakhtar in good spirits following their 2-0 away win against AGF Aarhus on Friday night.

There was good news below the first team at Chelsea this weekend, with positive results for both the Under-18s and Under-21s away to Liverpool.

On Saturday morning, the 18s continued their unbeaten start to the campaign with a 2-1 win thanks to two Alex Kiwomya goals, while a little over 24 hours later the 21s found themselves 3-0 down, only for substitute Jeremie Boga to score two fine solo goals and Lewis Clark to net a penalty, earning a fantastic 3-3 draw at Langtree Park, the home of the St Helen’s rugby league team.

The Under-21s are next in action a week today with a home local derby against Fulham, the match to be played at Brentford. The Under-18s travel to Middlesbrough for a Saturday morning kick-off, having already secured their place in the elite competition after Christmas.

It has been a big week for Nathaniel Chalobah (main picture), on loan with Watford, who first made his England Under-21 debut against Northern Ireland on Wednesday, and then scored his first senior goal in a 2-1 win over Wolves at the weekend. Chalobah is keen to make his mark when he returns to Stamford Bridge, citing the development of Ryan Bertrand as his inspiration.

The 17-year-old said: ‘[Ryan] has gone out for several loan spells, got experience in the Championship, and now has broken into the team. He is even an England international now.’

There was also a goal for Kevin De Bruyne, who netted the winner for 10-man Werder Bremen against Fortuna Dusseldorf on Sunday, while Ulises Davila scored twice in Spain for Sabadell as they won 5-2 at Recreativo.

Over in Holland it has been a big week for Tomas Kalas, a Czech Republic debutant in midweek, and he helped Vitesse to a 4-1 win against Nijmegen. Influential in that display was Gael Kakuta, who created two goals, while Patrick van Aanholt also played the full 90 minutes and tweeted his thanks to the fans for their support afterwards.

Looking back, we’ve had former striker Andriy Shevchenko at Cobham recently, and last week we brought news of the Ukrainian Football Federation (FFU) offering Sheva the opportunity to coach his national team. This week we can report he has turned it down.

Shevchenko

‘Representing the national team for many years was a great honour for me and with the team I enjoyed many memorable moments and vivid emotions,’ he said in a statement posted on the FFU website.

‘I am grateful to the Federation for the high level of confidence they placed in me by offering me the chance to lead the national team.

‘But I think today, to lead a team like Ukraine is a somewhat premature step for me. I hope the leadership of the FFU will react with understanding to my decision.’

The current Chelsea squad will fly back to London immediately after Tuesday night’s game in Turin and before taking on Man City on Sunday, three of them, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta will be in the Megastore at Stamford Bridge on Friday afternoon , signing copies of the Chelsea Annual between 4.30pm and 5.30pm.

Roberto Di Matteo will have already spoken to the media that lunchtime ahead of the clash with the league champions, and in the evening, Branislav Ivanovic will be the latest player to talk to supporters when he takes calls on Chelsea TV’s Friday Night Live show.

Finally, former Blues John Dempsey and Dave Beasant will be in the Chelsea Museum at Stamford Bridge before that Man City game, meeting supporters between 12.30 and 3pm.

DAVID LUIZ: HARD WORK IS THE WAY

David Luiz believes Tuesday’s crucial Champions League clash with Juventus has now taken on extra significance following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion.

The defeat at the Hawthorns, in which both of the home side’s goals came courtesy of defensive lapses, made it four league games without a win for Roberto Di Matteo’s side, and with a trip to Turin looming, there is no more margin for error.

‘We had a lot of opportunities to win the game but we were unlucky,’ said the Brazilian after Saturday’s game. ‘Now we have to think about the next game.

‘Every game is a big one because we play for a big club. We weren’t thinking about Tuesday’s match when playing West Brom but that’s gone now, the past is the past, and our next match is against Juventus.

‘They are a great team with a big stadium. They are just one point behind us so I think it will be the most important game in the group.’

After an impressive start to the campaign, where our attacking play earned plenty of plaudits and a string of positive results saw us top the table, the recent blip has enabled the two Manchester clubs to overtake us.

The defender, who along with Ramires and Oscar only returned to the club late last week after representing Brazil in New Jersey, USA, acknowledged that our current form is a cause for concern.

‘At the moment it’s not good,’ said the 25-year-old. ‘We started the season at the top of the league, but we’ve now lost another game, although it was against a good team. All the big clubs come here and it’s never easy, they have a great philosophy and a great coach.

‘But it’s disappointing, Chelsea want to be at the top of the table always, so we need to work hard before the next game.

‘In my first season here I think we were 18 points behind, but if we had won our last three games we would have won the Premier League. We don’t want to be far behind the other teams, but in the space of two or three games everything can change and we can be near the top again.’

DAVID LUIZ:

David Luiz believes Tuesday’s crucial Champions League clash with Juventus has now taken on extra significance following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion.

The defeat at the Hawthorns, in which both of the home side’s goals came courtesy of defensive lapses, made it four league games without a win for Roberto Di Matteo’s side, and with a trip to Turin looming, there is no more margin for error.

‘We had a lot of opportunities to win the game but we were unlucky,’ said the Brazilian after Saturday’s game. ‘Now we have to think about the next game.

‘Every game is a big one because we play for a big club. We weren’t thinking about Tuesday’s match when playing West Brom but that’s gone now, the past is the past, and our next match is against Juventus.

‘They are a great team with a big stadium. They are just one point behind us so I think it will be the most important game in the group.’

After an impressive start to the campaign, where our attacking play earned plenty of plaudits and a string of positive results saw us top the table, the recent blip has enabled the two Manchester clubs to overtake us.

The defender, who along with Ramires and Oscar only returned to the club late last week after representing Brazil in New Jersey, USA, acknowledged that our current form is a cause for concern.

‘At the moment it’s not good,’ said the 25-year-old. ‘We started the season at the top of the league, but we’ve now lost another game, although it was against a good team. All the big clubs come here and it’s never easy, they have a great philosophy and a great coach.

‘But it’s disappointing, Chelsea want to be at the top of the table always, so we need to work hard before the next game.

‘In my first season here I think we were 18 points behind, but if we had won our last three games we would have won the Premier League. We don’t want to be far behind the other teams, but in the space of two or three games everything can change and we can be near the top again.’