Champions League

Di Matteo not focused on his future

Chelsea boss Roberto di Matteo faces a do-or-die clash with Juventus.
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Roberto Di Matteo has refused to contemplate the implications of Chelsea crashing out of the Champions League for his own future ahead of their potential do-or-die clash at Juventus.

It was deja vu for football's most trigger-happy club on Monday as Di Matteo became the latest Blues manager to face serious questions about his job security following a slump in results.

And it could prove the start of Groundhog Day for the Italian if the European champions fail to stop the rot in Tuesday night's crunch Group E clash in Turin.

Defeat would leave Chelsea on the brink of becoming the first Champions League holders not to secure a place in the knockout stage, having taken qualification for granted during the Roman Abramovich era.

And there is no telling how Abramovich would react to such an embarrassing exit, especially in the midst of the club's latest winter of discontent, which has seen them drop from first to third in the Barclays Premier League after taking two points from 12.

Di Matteo admitted on Friday he feared Abramovich was going to sack him along with Andre Villas-Boas before he took charge of Chelsea but he refused to reveal whether he was of a similar mind on Monday evening.

"I'm not thinking about that," he said.

"I'm preparing for the game and the team for tomorrow, and have important decisions to make about that.

"We are very confident we can have a good game and, hopefully, a good result."

Di Matteo also stuck to his policy of not disclosing what conversations he and Abramovich might have had since Saturday's 2-1 defeat at West Brom.

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That loss heralded the first visible cracks in the Chelsea dressing room, with players said to have argued loudly and Di Matteo also thought to have been furious with their performance.

But the Italian "absolutely" welcomed the frank exchange, saying: "It's important that we communicate with each other, and the players express themselves. I've always encouraged that."

Crucially, there is no obvious sign of Di Matteo having lost the confidence of his players in the way that cost Villas-Boas so dearly.

He added: "They need to have belief in themselves, and that's the most important aspect.

"We work together and, at the moment, we're all in it together and believe we have a good group, a good team, and are pulling together."

Some have been pulling their weight more than others, with speculation rife Di Matteo has finally lost patience with Fernando Torres after hauling him off on Saturday.

The Chelsea boss admitted after the game he would consider dropping the Spain striker but said tonight: "I'm not going to disclose my ideas about on Tuesday.

"I'll make the final decisions tonight."

Di Matteo also hinted at the weekend he was prepared to abandon the swashbuckling style that has earnt Chelsea so many plaudits this season in order to secure a much-needed result - an approach that paid off spectacularly last term.

Most of all, Di Matteo needs his players to react positively to Saturday's dressing down.

"There was obviously frustration for the result on Saturday," he said.

"It's normal when things don't go your way.

"We owe ourselves a good performance and anything can happen.

"But we've proven many times before that, when it counts, our players can be counted for.

"Everyone is fully committed for the game."

Having been especially critical of a defence that went a ninth game without a clean sheet on Saturday, Di Matteo knew the challenge facing his side on Tuesday in the absence of the injured John Terry.

"We need to pay attention and focus in certain situations defensively," he said, revealing Ashley Cole would be back from a hamstring problem.

"We have enough players to deal with that, but the focus will be very important for that."

So finely poised is Group E that a Chelsea win on Tuesday would secure qualification, while a draw would leave them needing only a routine victory against Nordsjaelland to progress.

A defeat, however, and Juventus would require only a draw at Shakhtar Donetsk - who could well have little to play for - to reach the last 16 at Chelsea's expense.

Di Matteo said: "We know the importance of the game tomorrow.

"Motivation is going to be very, very high.

"It's important we understand that and show, as I said, the commitment that's necessary."

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