No matter how much Chelsea want their entertaining football to do the talking, the subject of racism and John Terry will still be at the forefront this evening. All eyes will be on Terry, once again, here as he returns to captain the side against Shakhtar Donetsk, but his timing could not be more awkward. The 31-year-old defender served the first of his four game ban for racially abusing Queen's Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand against Tottenham on Saturday, however he is free to play in the Champions League.
Unfortunately, his swift presence back in Chelsea's starting line-up coincides with the beginning of Fare's Action Weeks across Europe, which highlights their cause against discrimination. Among the events planned for the night, children will walk out beside the Chelsea players wearing "Unite Against Racism" T-shirts and Terry will put on an armband which states the same message. The fact he is making this statement exactly a year to the day since the ugly confrontation with Ferdinand took place at Loftus Road provides another telling twist to proceedings.
Terry continues to point to the not guilty verdict that was read out at the end of a high-profile court case in July and will argue this is a chance for him to send out the right sort of message.Still, such a sight could be hard for some in the game to stomach, especially those who feel the Football Association and Chelsea, who only issued their employee with a fine of two weeks' wages, have been too lenient in their treatment of him.
However, coach Roberto Di Matteo is not perturbed about what people think of his selection policy or whether Terry's performance may be adversely affected by all the negative attention.
Di Matteo said: "I've never been concerned about picking him. He's been able to focus on the games and that's what the players love to do, playing football and it's good for them that they can focus on that.
"With good performances and good behaviour in the future he should still be looked upon as the leader for our club." When asked if he was confident Terry would be able to play at the same level under the circumstances, he replied emphatically: "Yes, absolutely."Bizarrely, Terry appears to thrive on such occasions. "Everybody's different from that point of view, dealing with issues," Di Matteo added.
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