Roberto Di Matteo wasn’t supposed to become Chelsea manager, but Avram Grant came out of nowhere and nearly won a Champions League title and the Premier League. Things haven’t gone so well for him since, but that’s a different story. Di Matteo has done rather well since taking over for Andre Villas-Boas, even exceptionally well considering the circumstances and the results before him.
Is he running this team, or is it now the rule of the elderly? Di Matteo, unlike AVB, seems constantly talking and advising with the seniors on the sidelines. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba. The real leaders of this club who tipped the ship over when they saw the Portuguese manager was running them into an iceberg.
It might not be enough, after all. Chelsea are 5 points behind Tottenham in the race for the fourth Champions League spot. It was obvious who was the better side during their 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, as Petr Cech and his back four were the busiest men on the field. They were busy against Benfica as well, but the Estadio Da Luz featured a happier ending.
Depressing football? No doubt. Weird, dangerous lineup? Agreed. Fernando Torres seems to have a good link up with Salomon Kalou. It was easy to see in the Leiciester match, when Torres broke his never ending goal drought. His build up to Kalou’s winning goal against Benfica was all will and determination. You get through rough patches with that. Torres never forgot to play football, but he lost all confidence in himself. He’s slowly winning it back.
Di Matteo magic? Probably, in part. I’m pretty sure it’s easier to respect Di Matteo, who was an Italian international and former Chelsea player than a wiz-kid who’s been managing since he was 20. Villas-Boas may know soccer, but he doesn’t understand soccer players, or at least not those pulling the strings at Chelsea.
Di Matteo’s gamble worked. He knew his key men were exhausted, so he pulled out a simple plan. Defend like hell with the subs and maybe pull off an upset. He did, but Benfica have shown they are a dangerous away team this season against the likes of Manchester United. It would be foolish to think this 2-leg clash is over.
I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position, but it’s not a result you can rely upon for the home game. It’s one goal. You look at he results Benfica have achieved in this Champions League… you’re not going to sleep very calmly looking at that. We are pleased that we’re in a different position going into the second leg. We had a mountain to climb against Napoli. We still have a mountain, but it may be a little bit smaller because we’ve achieved a good result here.
On the rotation – I’m involving everybody that is in the squad, rotating. We’ll need everybody until the end of the season. Paulo Ferreira hasn’t played for a while but was outstanding tonight for me. We cannot play with just 11 players. We need everybody in the squad. You’ll see other players who have maybe played a little less in the past paying more of a role in the future. It’s just impossible for us to play every three days and reach the fitness levels needed to win games.
I don’t like assistant managers who stay on after the man in charge got fired. Too much of a mutiny feel to it, especially with Di Matteo looking all chummy with his players, and especially the more vocal voices in the dressing room. Doesn’t smell right. Di Matteo didn’t do too well with WBA, but how well can you do with such a club?
There’s a limit as to where you can reach. With Chelsea, if he gets them for another season and brings in the right talent to the drying up pool, limits are on a different kind of scale.