Champions League

Di Matteo calls for perfection

Chelsea Manager Roberto Di Matteo
Roberto Di Matteo was sacked as Chelsea manager on Wednesday.
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Roberto Di Matteo claims Chelsea need to produce "a perfect game" in their "must-win" Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk.

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Blues boss Di Matteo repeated his mantra from last season's stunning upset of Barcelona ahead of tonight's crunch showdown at Stamford Bridge.

The Italian had already billed the Group E game with Shakhtar as Chelsea's biggest since they were crowned kings of Europe, and he was under no illusions about the task facing his side against opponents who completely outplayed them in the reverse fixture two weeks ago.

Admitting it was time his players played like European champions after taking just four points from their opening three matches, Di Matteo said: "We need to be at our best. We need a perfect game tomorrow night. Every individual player going on the pitch has to perform at the highest of their ability.

"It's important we start well and get the crowd behind us and draw confidence from a good start."

Di Matteo said ahead of last season's semi-final triumph over Barca that Chelsea needed to produce two "perfect'' performances.

Their 1-0 home victory over the defending champions was one of several they pulled out of the fire at Stamford Bridge, where they also delivered crucial wins over Napoli, Benfica and Valencia.

They need another such display to regain control of Group E, which they are in real danger of failing to get out of.

Di Matteo said: "There are some comparisons certainly to last season, when we had must-win games. Tomorrow is another like that.

"Fortunately, we have players with the experience who have been through that before.

"We have to play the perfect game tomorrow to beat Shakhtar, but we're strong at home. We've shown that over many years, and we'll be fired up for this game to win it.''

Chelsea's fairytale finish to last season was achieved after Di Matteo ripped up sacked boss Andre Villas-Boas' attacking blueprint in favour of attritional style that won them few fans but ultimately ended their agonising wait for Champions League glory.

However, owner Roman Abramovich was never going to tolerate a repeat performance and Di Matteo duly set about trying to succeed where Villas-Boas failed.

And despite Chelsea's Champions League future being on the line on Wednesday, there was no going back for the Italian.

He said: "We have to focus on what we can do, the problems we can create for the opposition, and let them be concerned about us.

"We've had some individual mistakes but, when we're fully focused, we're a very good team."

Di Matteo reiterated that Chelsea must win both their remaining home games, having already admitted they may also need to avoid defeat in their final away match at Juventus.

He added: "It depends on the other results, but if we win it's in our own hands and that's what we want.''

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The champions will be boosted by the return of John Terry after their captain completed his domestic four-match racism ban - having shipped 10 goals in his absence - while Juan Mata and David Luiz are also likely to be passed fit after missing Saturday's Barclays Premier League draw at Swansea.

But Di Matteo confirmed left-back Ashley Cole had been ruled out of the clash with a hamstring injury, a huge blow in a position where they have been exposed of late.

"It's a real shame because he's got all the experience you need in games like this,'' Di Matteo said.

"But, on the other hand, JT is available again for us.''

Cole's place is expected to be filled by Ryan Bertrand, and he will do so after a ringing endorsement from Di Matteo, who said: "Ryan has always performed very well for us every time he's played.

"He's got that little bit of experience that helps and I have full confidence in him that he'll play a great game."

Di Matteo refused to contemplate the consequences of failure, despite the inevitable questions about what it would mean for his own future.

Asked if being the first Champions League holders not to reach the knockout stages would taint May's extraordinary triumph, he said: "I'm not thinking about that.

"I really believe this club deserves whatever it can achieve. That's my position.

"I work here for the club and the players. It's not about me. I think it's important for the club to have a successful campaign. That means we need to win.''

Even that is unlikely to halt speculation Abramovich could replace him with Pep Guardiola at any time but Di Matteo insisted he was master of his own fate.

He said: "From day one, the speculation has always been in the papers, so it doesn't affect me too much.

"I have my own destiny in my hands and the club and the owner are behind it.''

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