Di Matteo begins Chelsea reign


Roberto Di Matteo spoke to the official Chelsea website ahead of his first match as interim first team coach and paid tribute to the work done by Andre Villas-Boas, before turning his attention to the visit to Birmingham.

On Tuesday evening the team aim to make the FA Cup quarterfinals by overcoming the Championship side at St Andrew’s, and begin to put behind them the defeat at West Bromwich Albion which was followed by the departure of Villas-Boas.

‘It has been a very difficult 24 hours for a lot of people at the football club,’ Di Matteo says.

‘Andre has brought some very good, positive ideas and changes to this football club and we will benefit from his changes. I enjoyed very much working with him and we will remain friends for the rest of our lives, but I will have to move on for this club and try my best with the players we have here.’

On Monday morning Di Matteo took the final training session ahead of the Birmingham game, assisted by Eddie Newton who has come in to support the coaching staff.

‘It was a good morning,’ Di Matteo reports. ‘We only just played Saturday so it was a short and sharp session. We need to re-group for sure. Today I have mostly spoken to the players individually to try to get them in the right frame of mind for the task ahead and that is our job now.

‘Eddie knows the club and many of the players. I have worked with him for many years and it was easy for him to slot in for us and give us a hand until the end of the season.

‘He is a Chelsea man and I want some passion from people who care about this club, and this is one of our jobs as well, to transmit that to the team.

‘Eddie worked with me for three years and he is going to assist me and Steve Holland, and Christophe Lollichon will do his goalkeeping job and Chris Jones is the fitness and conditioning coach.

‘We will exchange opinion and discuss and we have a very similar view of how we think the team should play. It is good to have the people that have the knowledge and the experience, that have played in the Premier League, and Eddie was with me working in the Premier League last season.’

The first game takes Newton back to one of his former clubs, Birmingham, who achieved a 1-1 draw in the first FA Cup meeting at Stamford Bridge last month.

‘I have a good idea of the team I want to play in the replay,’ says Di Matteo, ‘but I am still uncertain about one or two positions and there might be a few changes. In terms of injuries, Jose Bosingwa (hamstring) is still unavailable and Ross Tunrbull is out with an ankle injury. We will have to see how Ashley Cole is.’

Birmingham manager Chris Hughton is likely to have available strikers Nikola Zigic and Marlon King who were not involved in the first game.

‘King is one of their major players and Zigic has done very well as well,’ says the Chelsea coach.

‘He is a big threat in the air obviously but we have dealt with that sort of player before. Once we get their team sheet we will have to see how they are going to play because they have some loan players as well and Chris Hughton makes a lot of changes from one game to the other.

‘Birmingham is a tough opponent. They defend very well and they don’t give you much space. I know how Championship football is and it is going to be a hard fight with lots of long balls to deal with. We have seen how difficult they are to beat because we have already played them at Stamford Bridge. We will have to be ready for that.

‘Our duty now is to look forward and to try to get the results that we need in the league, the Champions League and in the FA Cup to have a good season.’