Roberto Di Matteo has called for a ‘perfect game’ from his side if we are to beat Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night, a task made harder by the absence of Ashley Cole through injury.
We approach tomorrow evening’s game knowing anything less than a win, combined with a Juventus victory in Italy against FC Nordsjaelland, will make qualification for the knockout stages difficult.
Di Matteo, however, believes his men are well prepared for must-win matches, having come through similar fixtures last season on our way to lifting the European Cup in Munich, and has no concerns about once again throwing Ryan Bertrand into the line-up.
‘Ashley won’t be available for tomorrow. He has a problem with his hamstring. He shouldn’t be too long out but the game tomorrow is too soon for him,’ Di Matteo confirmed.
‘It’s a real shame because he’s got all the experience you need in games like this so it is a real blow for us. On the other hand JT is available again for us. In these games over a long season you have to take into consideration that you might have a few injuries.
‘Ryan has always performed very well for us every time he has played. He has that little bit of experience which helps and I have confidence he will play a great game.’
Di Matteo hopes to have David Luiz and Juan Mata back in contention but will not know until after Tuesday evening’s training session at Stamford Bridge, while Frank Lampard remains out.
‘We need to wait for the last session tonight to check the availability for tomorrow and see how they come through tonight in the training session,’ he said.
‘Frank is still about seven to 10 days away, so we will have to wait and see how he progresses but he is not far away.’
Having been beaten 2-1 in Donetsk a fortnight ago, Di Matteo will expect better from his players on home soil but appreciates the size of the task facing them in a side that is dominating their own Ukrainian league and shows no fear away from home.
‘I think we need to be at our best. We need a perfect game,’ the manager said. ‘Every player on the pitch needs to perform at the highest of their ability.
‘In Donetsk the early goal helped them massively, and then to play a bit on the counter, so it’s important we start well and get the crowd behind us, and draw confidence from a good start.
‘The way they went to Turin and played shows the confidence they have. At home we’re a very strong team and will need to show it, put them under pressure and score the goals we need.’
Typically for an Italian coach, Di Matteo will also be demanding defensive discipline from his players.
‘You look at the goals in the Champions League and the ones we have conceded we have many players behind the ball, it isn’t like we have been caught out,’ he explained. ‘Sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition for the quality they have, but we have to focus on what we can do and the problems we can create for the opposition.
‘Our defensive organisation has been good. We’ve had defensive mistakes but when we’re fully focused we’re a very good team.’
Asked what his side’s secret to success in this competition has been, Di Matteo took a second to think before responding.
‘One is the strong mentality this team has, and the experience they have of performing in big games like this, not to feel the pressure too much, and also good players,’ he reasoned. ‘We have good players in our ranks and when they manage to perform at their best we are a very strong team.
‘We’ve had must-win games and tomorrow is another one like that. We need to play a perfect game tomorrow against Shakhtar, but we are strong at home. We found that over many years and we will be fired up to win it.’
After defeat in Donetsk, Di Matteo reckoned we would need to win our two remaining home games, against Shakhtar and Nordsjaelland, if we are to avoid being the first reigning champions not to make it out of the Champions League group stages, and it is a claim he stands by.
‘We certainly have to win our home games, I still believe that and hopefully we can do that tomorrow. If we win it’s in our hands and that’s what we want,’ he said. ‘It’s important for the club to have a successful campaign and that means we need to win tomorrow.’
Di Matteo also gave his reaction to the news that Stamford Bridge will be hosting the Women’s Champions League Final in 2013.
‘For us it’s a great honour to be able to organise sch a big game at Stamford Bridge,’ he said. ‘I admire women’s football, I do watch it, the national football, and I think we will be a great host here for the Final.’