Roberto Di Matteo comes to defence of Chelsea striker Didier Drogba

 

Roberto Di Matteo today insisted there was no need to "have a word" with Didier Drogba about his antics in Chelsea's Champions League win over Barcelona.

Caretaker Blues boss Di Matteo revealed Drogba picked up a genuine injury in Wednesday night's semi-final first leg that has left him in a race against time to be fit for Tuesday's return match.

Drogba was hailed and castigated in almost equal measure after his Jekyll-and-Hyde performance in midweek that saw him score the winner but also roll around theatrically several times after being challenged.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed this morning he had "had a word" with Ashley Young about the winger's own tendency to go down easily, but suggested what went on at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday was much worse.

Asked if he would have a similar conversation with Drogba, Di Matteo said: "No, because I don't see any reason why I should have a conversation like that.

"Our players, I think, are fair players. Everybody has his own style but I think we are a fair team."

Drogba was accused of trying to run down the clock on Wednesday and former referee Graham Poll has warned the officials on Tuesday night may have that in mind.

Di Matteo said: "He was marked most of time by two men and I think got a lot of physical battering as well on the night.

"We have to be objective about our opinions as well."

Confirming Drogba suffered a knee injury on Wednesday and would miss tomorrow's Barclays Premier League game at Arsenal - a match he probably would have been rested for anyway - Di Matteo admitted he did not know whether the 34-year-old would be back for the trip to the Nou Camp.

"We have to assess him tomorrow and Sunday and how he recovers," he said.

"He got pushed and kicked around quite a lot in the game on Wednesday."

Meanwhile, Drogba's agent has claimed the striker's recent heroics would convince Chelsea to bow to his contract demands.

Drogba looked certain to quit the Blues this summer after they refused to offer him more than a one-year extension to his current deal, which expires at the end of the season.

The Ivory Coast star has been heavily linked with a lucrative move to Shanghai Shenhua - who former Stamford Bridge team-mate Nicolas Anelka joined in January - as well as clubs from France, the United States and the Middle East.

But agent Thierno Seidy was confident Chelsea would now pull out all the stops to keep Drogba after his goals this week helped lead them to the FA Cup final and to the brink of the Champions League final.

Seidy told L'Equipe: "Talks are going on with executive director (Ron Gourlay), and we will take stock with him before the end of the season.

"I believe what Didier is currently showing will lead the club to a new thought.

"Didier loves Chelsea and he wants to stay, but if things have to happen another way, he will leave. This time, we can make the decision by ourselves.

"Didier will be a free agent at the end of the season, so he is master of his own fate to sign his last contract."

Seidy ruled out Drogba staying in England if he did quit Chelsea.

He said: "We have a lot of offers from everywhere.

"But one thing is for sure, if Didier will play in England next season, it will be at Chelsea and nowhere else."

Di Matteo, who has repeatedly insisted he has no input over transfers, said of Drogba's future: "That's a conversation that will happen with the club.

"That has nothing really to do with myself."

PA

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