Chelsea's confidence can win out, says Di Matteo
Manager backs his players’ tough attitude and experience as Drogba hints he might stay
Saturday 19 May 2012
Roberto Di Matteo has told his players: "Your quality got us this far, now you can go and win it."
On the eve of the biggest night of his managerial career the Chelsea coach was calm confidence personified in the face of Bayern Munich's belief that home advantage will tell in their favour.
For Di Matteo and his most experienced players, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, the Germans are at home but it is the visitors who have the greater desire to finally put Chelsea's name on the European Cup. Di Matteo said of his players: "They have all the qualities needed to win this competition. Those same qualities have got us to the final and I am very positive and very confident."
Even the loss of captain John Terry was not weakening his quiet resolve as he insisted that Lampard was more than man enough to fill the void and lift the trophy. "Lampard is a natural leader," he said. "You might not think of him that way but whenever he has had to take the armband he has done the job. He is a proper leader, a proper man."
Lampard will lead the team with Drogba leading the forward line. He even said he would be happy to talk to Chelsea after the match about his future – suggesting that what could be the biggest game of his career will not necessarily be his last.
The Chelsea chief executive, Ron Gourlay, had said in the run-up to the game: "We continue to discuss the situation with Didier. He loves this football club, we love Didier, and we'll continue to have the conversations."
Asked about those comments and whether the two men might actually get around to discussing a new deal Drogba said: "I will sit down with him and we will talk. It is certainly not true that I have been offered to Barcelona."
Di Matteo added: "Didier has brought so much success to this club and whatever happens tomorrow he will be remembered as a legend."
The Chelsea coach said he would decide on his starting XI and on the three players who will line up behind Drogba after last night's final session. There remains a possibility that Fernando Torres will get an 11th-hour call to play ahead of Florent Malouda who trained with the group last night having been troubled by his hamstring all week.
Torres could take his place on the right-hand side. He has provided 18 assists this season and is unlikely to be fazed by the occasion having started the European Championship final in 2008 and played in the 2010 World Cup final. He came off the bench to play the final Premier League game of the season, linking up for the final 21 minutes of the 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge.
Neither have found the net in five starts together but against a Bayern team that conceded five in the German Cup final last weekend Di Matteo has not written it off as an option.
"That was a one-off game and we are still dealing with the team who has the best defensive record in the Bundesliga," he said. But he knows it is a rearguard shorn of three defensive starters.
"I feel responsible for the club as a whole so I'm not thinking selfishly," said Di Matteo when asked about his future. And Lampard was coy on whether it would be impossible to move on a coach who had just won the Champions League.
"People think we ring up the owner and decide who gets sacked or taken on," Lampard said. "That is not how it works or how it should work." Lampard said the pains of the Moscow final in 2008 will be an extra motivation tonight. "We remember the disappointment from the final and we will use that to spur us on," he said.
"Everyone saw what the celebrations after the Barça semi-final were like. We knew that had given us another chance to win this competition. The atmosphere was incredible even on the way to the stadium."
Like his current manager he believes the home comforts are outweighed by the sense that this is Chelsea's turn to put past mistakes behind them and give owner Roman Abramovich the trophy he has always craved.
Lampard said: "Without the owner I would not be sitting here. This is the biggest competition in club football and we want to win the match to be European Cup winners knowing that it will also mean we reach the competition next season.
"To get changed in your own dressing room and to play in the pitch you are used to is brilliant but the underdog tag is not a problem for us. Bring it on. It makes the challenge even greater."
Di Matteo said he would wait to gauge the mood of his players before deciding on the tone of the biggest team-talk of his life. "I don't have a script," he said. "I will see how the atmosphere is in the dressing room." Would he need to calm a group over anxious to succeed or motivate players a little daunted by ceding home advantage? "Bayern are playing in their stadium. They know the pitch and the dressing room but that is all it is. Our players have the motivation," he said.
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