May 22 2013 Latest news:
Paul Lagan, London24 Chelsea blogger
Monday, March 26, 2012
“Di Matteo is many things. He’s no high-level coach that’s for sure, but thankfully he is no Villas-Boas either”
Chelsea’s roller-coaster season continues.
A fortunate 0-0 draw at home against Spurs on Saturday means the Blues remain in fifth place, five points from the coveted Champions League spot currently held by those pesky north London rivals.
Yet tomorrow they must pick themselves up and try nullify Benfica in the Champions League.
It’s the away leg first and Chelsea must not repeat the performance when they went away to Napoli in the last round.
That 3-1 defeat was turned round in spectacular fashion at the Bridge when Chelsea won 4-1 after extra time.
The saying is that lightening does not strike twice and so Roberto Di Matteo must not write his own professional suicide note in the same way as Andre Villas-Boas did that night in Naples.
One has only to hark back to August, 1999 when a certain Newcastle United manager Ruud Gullit failed to restore Toon icon Alan Shearer to the starting line-up after the striker’s suspension.
By the time Gullit realised his error and called Shearer off the bench, the game was effectively over.
They lost to bitter rivals Sunderland and Gullit’s exit from the north-east was all but sealed.
Villas-Boas was probably still in short pants that day, playing with his Subutteo set, creating ridiculous ‘medium high lines’ so the significance of the error of judgement by Gullit was completely lost.
But in Naples he left Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole on the bench. He set the scene for his own professional suicide.
He was already without talismanic John Terry through injury.
Jose Bosingwa played left-back in place of Cole, who came on after 11 minutes, making a mockery of his supposed lack of fitness.
Despite going one nil in front through Juan Mata, Chelsea were ripped apart with three goals zipping past Petr Cech.
Villas-Boas realised his error too late and brought on Lampard on 69 minutes when the game was also all but over.
Villas-Boas lasted two more games - his was a particular cruel, long drawn out death.
His successor, Di Matteo is a tad less arrogant, but he too must not fall into the same trap.
Four straight victories but a recent defeat and a draw are Di Matteo’s statistics.
He’s had his ups of the roller-coaster and he’s in the middle of a down just now.
Can he turn the mini slum round quickly?
He is gong to need his main men tomorrow, the so-called ‘Old Guard’
Like the game in Naples, Chelsea may be without their skipper Terry. But there is not a Blues fan in the world who could imagine either Lampard or Cole warming the bench in this one.
Di Matteo is many things. He’s no high-level coach that’s for sure, but thankfully he is no Villas-Boas either.
The priority now for Di Matteo is to win the Champions League. That may seem far-fetched to many when Real Madrid and Barcelona are in their way even if they overcome the Portuguese.
Sure the Blues are a Wembley on April 15 in the FA Cup semi-final. But that game might as well not exist as far as all the players and coaching team are concerned.
Roman Abramovich has made it perfectly clear to this squad that they are in the last-chance saloon as far as their Chelsea careers are concerned.
Win the Champions League or exist SW6.
The draw on Saturday against Spurs left a bitter taste in the mouths of the majority of the 41,000 Chelsea supporters watching the game.
It meant Spurs are now favourites to finish fourth at their expense.
With Newcastle United now level on points with the west Londoners, there is the distinct possibility of dropping to sixth place.
The salivating thought of all Chelsea fans now is the realisation that victory in the Champions League would mean the Blues would enter next season’s tournament at the expense of the team that finishes fourth - yes, Chelsea could still inflict the final blow to Spurs’ Champions League ambitions.
But first things first - victory at Benfica, finish the job off next Wednesday at home and the semi-final beckons.
Then it’s just a couple of matches away from the final.
The roller-coaster rattles on and could finish with glory in Munich coupled with gloom and despair descending down the Seven Sisters Road.