Di Matteo insists Blues good enough
Roberto Di Matteo has declared Chelsea are good enough to win the Champions League as he stands on the brink of leading them to arguably the greatest victory in their history.
Barely seven weeks since taking charge and less than seven days after masterminding an astonishing semi-final first-leg win over Barcelona, caretaker Blues boss Di Matteo arrived at the Nou Camp on Monday night determined to complete the job.
Chelsea have been written off this season and even before that, something that prompted Di Matteo to hit out at their critics after Saturday’s Barclays Premier League game at Arsenal.
And he was adamant on Monday evening they have what it takes to end their agonising nine-year wait for Champions League glory since Roman Abramovich bought the club.
"We do have the qualities within this team," he said.
"I think we need away from home, as we’ve seen in the past, a bit of luck to be able to do well in a competition like this.
"But, certainly, the quality and the squad we have at Chelsea is very good."
Di Matteo has been praised and condemned in almost equal measure for placing such an emphasis on defence in Wednesday’s night’s 1-0 first-leg win and he defended those tactics again on Monday night.
"You have to utilise the strengths of your players, and see what the weakness of the opposition is," he said.
"I respect other people’s opinion, but I disagree."
An ultra-defensive formation runs a huge risk of one of Chelsea’s players picking up a yellow card – or worse.
With four of their likely starters one booking from a suspension, there are places in the final on the line in more ways than one.
"I don’t think we can be thinking about that in the game tomorrow," said Di Matteo, who looks set to start Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, Raul Meireles and Ramires.
"The players will be playing fully focused on their task and their responsibilities in the game. We cannot speculate on the bookings."
Of more concern to Di Matteo is the fitness of Didier Drogba, who was the match-winner last week and once again proved a thorn in Barcelona’s side.
Drogba trained on Monday night after missing the Arsenal game with a knee injury and Di Matteo said: "I’ll assess the physical and mental state of my players.
"I’ll make the team selection tomorrow morning, so I can’t tell you what it’ll be tomorrow night."
Drogba would boost Chelsea’s chances of scoring an away goal that would leave Barca needing to net three.
"I do think we’ll have to try and score a goal," Di Matteo said.
"That would give us a greater chance. I think it’ll be difficult just playing for a goalless draw."
Real Madrid arguably showed Di Matteo the way, with Saturday’s 2-1 victory at the Nou Camp in what could prove the Primera Division’s title decider.
"You cannot take another team and another manager, with the team we have," Di Matteo said.
"We have to look at the players who will play tomorrow and try to get the best out of them, and play to the qualities of our team."
Chelsea’s recent success has been built on returning to their core values that begins with solid defending.
That has been led by John Terry and January signing Gary Cahill and Di Matteo said: "We’re very pleased with the way our defenders have been playing lately.
"We’ve been able to defend very well, keep some clean sheets.
"We’ve been positively impressed with Gary since he came to the club."