Speaking ahead of Saturday’s local derby, Di Matteo has given good news on the health of his squad as well as discussed his hopes for a game played in good spirit.
The manager has also reflected on the news concerning the Hillsborough disaster.
It is certainly not always the case coming off the back of a two-week break for international fixtures, but Di Matteo’s choice is an extensive one as he considers the 11 names on the teamsheet for the visit to Queens Park Rangers.
John Terry and Ashley Cole have trained for two days as they shake off ankle injuries and should be available for selection. Juan Mata returned on Friday morning from his well-earned break from football and also trained. A late decision will be made on whether the Spaniard can play a part against Rangers, but if not then he will definitely be in the squad for the Juventus match on Wednesday.
Marko Marin, who has been out with a hamstring problem, will be involved in the Under-21 game tonight versus Liverpool at Brentford. The German will therefore not be in the squad for tomorrow’s match.
Di Matteo has given an update on Petr Cech who was rested from the Czech Republic’s friendly international midweek. He has a minor elbow condition which won’t affect his availability for Chelsea games.
‘It is very good that the Czech Federation has cooperated with us and our goalkeeper doesn’t need to play in the friendly games,’ said the manager. ‘We have been managing his elbow and it is not decided yet if he will need anything done to it.
‘He has been playing with it for some period now and it is not an issue at the moment. If he stays without any pain then it is possible he will play on with that. If not, our medical department with the player will make a decision.’
On facing QPR
Talk in the build-up to the derby has been on whether there will be a handshake between the two teams. The usual pre-match ritual was suspended when we played QPR at Stamford Bridge in April but will go ahead on Saturday afternoon.
‘We are going to respect the protocol and set a positive standard for the millions of people that are going to watch us all over the world, and make people focus more on the football side than other issues,’ said Di Matteo.
‘The Premier League is being watched all over the world now and we have to set a good, positive standard for everybody that is watching us and the handshake is just a part of it. It is part of the respect campaign as well and hopefully the game will be played in good spirit.
‘We would like both sets of supporters, especially our fans, to support their team and hopefully there will be no incidents. Football is here to unite people rather than divide people.’
When the whistle blows, Di Matteo is anticipating a match that showcases all that is good in a top-flight match between close neighbours.
‘Every time we go to Loftus Road it is always a feisty derby for us. It is a small ground with very passionate supporters from both sides, and the rivalries are well known so it is going to be a heated atmosphere.
‘We had a bad start in our last game against Atletico Madrid and after that it was always an uphill struggle for us in that game. We know we need to start well against QPR to try to retain our positive start we have had this season.’
With the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel dominating not just the sports news but all news this week, Di Matteo had some words for the Chelsea supporters on that subject.
‘Our message is to respect the victims’ families because that day was a tragedy for those who have lost their love ones and for football in general,’ he said.
‘Now that hopefully there is an end to the uncertainty there was over that tragedy, we can look forward and remember the victims and our sympathy goes out to the families who lost people. The message to our fans is to respect that and show a good example of what our fans are like.’
In addition, Chelsea Football Club has made a statement which reads:
‘Chelsea Football Club’s sympathy to those that suffered as a result of the Hillsborough disaster 23 years ago is well known and has been consistently made clear.
‘We have also stated on a number of occasions our view of Chelsea supporters who engage in inappropriate and unacceptable chants, songs or statements that dishonour all those that suffered as a result of the tragic events that day.’
In other news
Since Chelsea last played a game, Raul Meireles has left the club for Fenerbahçe and Florent Malouda has been told to train with Chelsea’s Under-21 squad rather than the first team group.
‘There was a decision by the club and the player,’ Di Matteo said on the transfer of Meireles.
‘The player has a new contract with a very good club and the offer the club received was very good, and we both decided it was the best way to go forward.
‘We have taken a decision as a club to put Malouda with the Under 21s. In the past there has been some expression from the player as well to maybe part company and it hasn’t happened, so in the end we moved forward and we brought in some other players and those are the players we are going to work with this season.
‘The other players have accepted the decision and they have to focus on what is there to achieve this season.’