Roberto Di Matteo, who will lead his side out at former club West Bromwich Albion later today, believes his experience in charge at the Hawthorns has only served to enhance his abilities as a manager.
The Italian, who will be hoping to inspire the Blues to a first league win since last month’s 4-2 win at Tottenham Hotspur, took charge at West Brom ahead of the 2009/10 campaign, in which he took them back up to the top flight from the Championship, before being relieved of his duties midway through the following season after a poor sequence of results.
At the time, few would have foreseen Di Matteo leading Chelsea to Champions League glory just over a year later, but the current Blues boss, who was placed in charge following last season’s corresponding fixture, feels it’s all about making the most of opportunities when they come along.
‘I was always confident about myself; I learnt a lot of things, which people to trust and not to trust,’ he explained. ‘I’m certainly a better coach and manager now from my experiences in the past and also from the experiences I had as an assistant.
‘That’s life, you have to be ready when an opportunity arises for yourself, if you’re not it can be quite tough, but I was always confident.’
Today’s opponents are flying high at present and have been in impressive form of late, particularly at home, where they have won five out of six matches.
Their manager Steve Clarke needs no introduction to Chelsea supporters, having served the club with such distinction as both a player and coach for many years, and Di Matteo is delighted to see the man he played alongside at Stamford Bridge in the late 1990s flourishing in his first managerial role.
‘He’s worked for many clubs as an assistant,’ said Di Matteo. ‘We’ve spoken before, he thought it was time for him to try as a manager and become a number one.
‘He’s chosen a good club because they allow you to work and I’m pleased for him. He’s a good man, we played together, have some good memories together and it’s great to see him doing well.’
It’s been a disappointing few weeks in terms of our league form, with the controversial Manchester United defeat preceding successive draws against both Swansea and Liverpool, a run of results which has seen us drop from top of the table down to third.
The manager, though, has seen enough from his side to feel confident going into today’s game, but is anticipating another stern test against his former club.
‘We tend to forget that the Manchester United game was a peculiar one,’ he said. ‘Given all of the issues which took place in the match, I strongly believe we wouldn’t have lost.
‘Against Swansea we should have won the game, we should have closed it out, while against Liverpool we had plenty of chances to win it, so we’re in good shape.
‘We’ve shown our character many times, when we play well we can win games. It will be very tough against West Brom at the Hawthorns; they have the second best home record in the league behind Manchester City, who they only lost to in added-time.
‘They have good organisation with two blocks of four, they sometimes play five in midfield and are dangerous in transition and on the break.
‘They have players who can score goals with [Peter] Odemwingie and [Shane] Long, [Romelu] Lukaku’s also been scoring a few for them and [James] Morrison’s had a good start to the season.’
The match comes at the end of a week which has seen a number of our first team players head off to represent their countries in various friendlies taking place across the globe.
With our Brazilian trio, as well as Juan Mata, embarking on particularly long trips, Di Matteo struggled to hide his frustration when quizzed upon the scheduling of the midweek games.
‘David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar went to play for Brazil in the US, and all three of them played more or less the full 90 minutes,’ he explained.
‘They flew back overnight and only arrived on Thursday afternoon. Mata was in Panama with Spain and had a long flight, [Branislav] Ivanovic played, [Gary] Cahill played, [Oriol] Romeu played for Spain Under-21s and both [Ryan] Bertrand and [Daniel] Sturridge were also away with England.
‘From a club point of view, it doesn’t make any sense to have your players going all over the world during a packed fixture list in November.
‘On the other hand, you want to have good players, and if you do they will probably be playing for their national team, so that’s the other side of it.’
On a more positive note, meanwhile, the manager is hopeful that Marko Marin will be able to make his Premier League bow in the coming weeks after he scored for the Under-21s in their 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on Monday.
‘He’s been on the bench the last few games,’ said Di Matteo. ‘He has a bit of history with injuries but is getting closer to his debut.
‘When you are injured and the team are doing well it’s quite difficult, but he just has to keep working and waiting for his chance.’