Aside from the Champions League final itself, tomorrow night’s match against Juventus is arguably the most important of Roberto Di Matteo’s tenure thus far, and he believes his side are heading into the game in a positive frame of mind, despite our recent domestic form.
The Blues require at least a draw in order to ensure our hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition remain in our own hands, but having picked up only two points from a possible 12 in the Premier League there is understandably cause for concern.
With Manchester City up next in the league on Sunday, it’s yet another massive week for the club, but Di Matteo, who returns to Italy as a manager for the first time, sees no reason as to why we can’t follow the last-gasp victory over Shakhtar Donetsk with another three points in Turin.
‘I feel confident, we have a good team and know the importance of the match tomorrow, we know we have to play a good game,’ he said.
‘At the moment we are thinking positively, we played a good game at home against Juventus, it will be difficult tomorrow for sure, but they are under pressure to win the match as well, so it will make it an interesting game.’
Much was made of Di Matteo’s decision to make five changes to the side for Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, and he hinted after the game that tomorrow night could yield a change, both in tactics and personnel, in a bid to revert back to winning ways.
The form of both Fernando Torres and David Luiz has been the subject of much speculation in the media of late, but the Italian, with the stakes so high, is eager not to make any rash decisions.
‘The selection on Saturday was dependant on internationals,’ he explained. ‘I had to consider jetlag, the reactions and the players were very tired.
‘I think it will be an open match tomorrow, they are at home so it could be an advantage, but we will be very motivated.
‘There’s still another session to do and we’ll see how the players are, then I’ll make the final decisions tonight.
‘My intention is to create as many problems as possible. I’ve seen many of their games, including the last one against Lazio, where they played very well and were very aggressive. We need to defend, of course, but attack as well.’
Our only previous win on Italian soil came back in November 2003, when a Chelsea side – under the stewardship of Claudio Ranieri – turned in a stunning performance to beat Lazio 4-0.
Juventus have failed to win their previous two home matches, with the weekend’s goalless draw against Lazio preceded by a 3-1 defeat against Inter, but the two-time winners of the tournament showed enough quality when they fought back from 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge in September to suggest that we will need to be at our very best to emerge from the impressive Juventus Stadium in a strong position in Group E.
‘We know the importance of the game so motivation will be very high,’ said the Blues boss. ‘It will be important we understand that and show the commitment which is necessary for tomorrow’s game.
‘The players have to have belief in themselves, that’s the most important aspect. We work together and we’re all in it together, we have a good team, a good group and we believe we can get a positive result.’
With his side having failed to keep a clean sheet over the course of the past nine games, Di Matteo admitted that we need to make ourselves more difficult to break down.
The return to fitness of Ashley Cole, who could start tomorrow, is a major boost, but the manager is hopeful of an all-round improved defensive display from the whole team.
‘It’s important we communicate with each other and the players express themselves, I’ve always encouraged that,’ he explained.
‘There was frustration on Saturday because of the result and this is normal when results don’t go your way. We owe ourselves a performance and anything can happen, we’ve proved in the past that when it counts our players can be relied upon.
‘Ashley is available. I think we need to have attention and focus in certain situations defensively, we have enough players to deal with that but focus will be very important.’