It is not a run-of-the-mill game for Roberto Di Matteo this weekend as he takes the European champions to the club he previously managed but as far as he is concerned, it is still only one of a long list of very important fixtures ahead.
Having taken two points from the last three league matches, a repeat of last season’s defeat at the Hawthorns is one to certainly be avoided, and the players know they will need to be at their best against a side whose home record is only bettered by Manchester City.
The game comes a little too early for the return of Frank Lampard from a calf strain but Ashley Cole, who has been back in training following a hamstring injury, has a chance of involvement.
Di Matteo has given an update on the condition of John Terry whose injury suffered on Sunday against Liverpool has been diagnosed as a medial collateral ligament (MCL) strain.
‘With JT we are looking at approximately three weeks more. Fortunately it is not as bad as we first feared, so on one hand we are pleased but on the other we are obviously disappointed that he was just back and we lose him again.
‘He was looking sharp and it gave the team a lot of confidence so it was unfortunate for us to lose him in his first game back. He is an important player for us and it is a crucial time of the season so that is a shame.
‘Lampard won’t be featuring this weekend but he is not far off,’ the manager adds. ‘We have to be careful with his injury because we don’t want to take risks; we have to make sure he is 100 per cent ready.’
On facing West Brom
Di Matteo bears no grudge against Saturday’s opponents, whom he led to promotion before being dismissed in the February of that first season in the top flight.
‘That is football,’ he acknowledges.
‘Look at where I am sitting now – so I am not so sure it was such a bad thing. In a manager’s career you are going to get the sack at some point if you have a long career, and it makes you stronger. It doesn’t mean you are not a good manager and there are many examples of good managers where it didn’t work out at a club but they were successful before or after.
‘I had a great time at West Brom and worked with a lot of good people there, and the supporters were very kind to me. I have good memories.
‘I don’t have such good memories of the game there with Chelsea last season. We didn’t play a good game and it was a shame because we were in a difficult period at the time and that defeat led to a reaction. I was then asked to fill in [as manager] to the end of the season and I was very pleased to help the club.’
Saturday’s game begins a week of highly important matches for the Blues, with the Champions League visit to Juventus followed by our hosting of the Premier League champions.
‘For us every week and every game is a game that defines our path,’ points out Di Matteo. ‘Last week the game against Shakhtar was a defining game, and now the next one in the league against West Brom is, and then Tuesday and then Man City. Every game that we play can define our season. It isn’t just this week.’