Di Matteo issues rallying cry
Roberto Di Matteo has told Chelsea's players they have a "duty" to rescue the club's season as speculation intensifies over Andre Villas-Boas' long-term replacement.
Di Matteo only took charge of his first training session on Monday morning after being appointed caretaker-manager until the end of the season, but that did not prevent rumours continuing to circulate about who owner Roman Abramovich would turn to next.
Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are said to be the Russian's primary targets, but neither have commented yet on being linked with the job. Joachim Low's name was catapulted into frame when the Geneva Tribune reported that Abramovich had met the Germany boss on Monday at a hotel in the Swiss city, although this was quickly denied by the club.
For now, Di Matteo must somehow try to motivate a squad who reportedly have no more affection for him than they did for Villas-Boas.
The Italian tried to freshen things up by appointing his former Chelsea team-mate and assistant at MK Dons and West Brom, Eddie Newton, to his backroom staff. As Newton arrived, fitness coach Jose Mario Rocha and chief opposition scout Daniel Sousa left the club, the pair having been part of Villas-Boas' coaching team.
The first task for Di Matteo and Newton, who scored the goals that won Chelsea the 1997 FA Cup, is to navigate Tuesday's fifth-round replay at Birmingham.
Di Matteo told the club's official website: "It has been a very difficult 24 hours for a lot of people at the football club. 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."
He added on Chelsea TV: "Now, though, we have to focus on the next game, which is against Birmingham. We have to try to win the next game, which is how we are going to be from now until the end of the season - we are going to focus on game by game.
"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."
Addressing the Chelsea fans, Di Matteo said: "I am one of them. It hurts me to see our club in this position. I can give them my full commitment to the end of the season, with the passion I have for my job for this club. It is has been a big part of my life.
"I will try to transmit this to the players, they are all on board and want to do well for us and we need to show it on the pitch."
Asked about coming back to Stamford Bridge, Newton told Sky Sports News: "It was totally out of the blue. It's been a blur to be honest with you.
"The ambition is to get into fourth place and we will push as hard as possible. Every game is very important between now and the end of the season."
League Managers' Association chief executive Richard Bevan earlier revealed how Villas-Boas had reacted to his sacking.
He said: "He was very disappointed, frustrated, saddened, but his thoughts were for the club, the fans and indeed Roberto Di Matteo, wishing him well for the rest of the season."