Roberto Di Matteo, on his arrival at the impressive Donbass Arena in Donetsk, reported no price was paid for the win at Spurs in terms of injuries.
The Italian has been able to take the same squad to Ukraine as he did to White Hart Lane on Saturday, so 20 players trained on Shakhtar’s pitch 24 hours before our third Champions League group game. Marko Marin narrowly missed being fit to re-join the squad after a minor groin strain.
Having plenty of his top players available is essential for the significant challenge set by a Shakhtar side with a 100 per cent league record this season, and the same points total as Chelsea in the Champions Group group so far. Di Matteo also emphasised the quality of the Shakhtar coach, Mircea Lucescu who managed three clubs in Italy, including during the time Di Matteo was a Lazio player.
‘I remember watching his teams a lot in the past and he has always played with the same philosophy,’ said the Chelsea manager.
‘Quick, possession football and you can see Shakhtar Donetsk want to play out from the back with the goalkeeper and with a lot of tactically good and fast players. He is an excellent coach with a lot of experience and he has done extremely well here at Shakhtar.’
Lucescu, in his pre-match press conference, discussed a past Chelsea offer to buy Shakhtar’s Brazilian winger Willian. Di Matteo had a say on the player too.
‘As an assistant [at the time] I wasn’t involved in those conversations but Willian is a fantastic player with good qualities. We have a good squad with good players and I don’t know where his future is, but the way he is playing here he looks quite happy.’
Juan Mata, likely to be one the players sent out by Di Matteo to face Willian and team-mates tomorrow, says Chelsea will play to win and anticipates two sides with a similar style.
‘I think it is going to be a fight for the ball,’ said the Spaniard. ‘They are a team with quality players, quality in the midfield area and in their league they always have the ball and a lot of chances to score. So tomorrow we will try to play our football as we did in the last two months, enjoy ourselves and the level we are playing at. We expect a rival team always wanting the ball.’
With Chelsea’s football now winning many admirers, it was suggested to Di Matteo that he has yet to be given enough credit for the job he is doing, but first Mata had some words about his boss.
‘Robbie knows very well the team, and the club as well. He used to be a legend here and now as a manager he connects very well with the team. In every meeting he goes deep inside each one of us, talking about every game, and it’s very important to be ready for every competition. He knows how important it is for the club to play these games, to win the Champions League like last season, so for us he is the perfect manager.
‘I am just happy to be leading this group and working with these players and working for the club that I have in my heart,’ said Di Matteo.
‘The players deserve all the credit as it has been extremely difficult last season and also this season with integrating players and our system of play. I am just here to help and do my job well as I can and hopefully we can continue for a long time.’