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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 6 hours ago
Read
 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 13, 2012

Di Matteo calm over Bale comments

Roberto Di Matteo reacted calmly to Gareth Bale's claim Tottenham were better than Chelsea and vowed to pick his strongest line-up in the clubs' FA Cup semi-final.

Spurs winger Bale lit the blue touch paper ahead of Sunday's Wembley showdown when he declared his side would win because "we have the better team".

But caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo said this afternoon: "We respect his opinion and we'll see on Sunday.

"Obviously, I don't agree with him."

The sides drew both league matches this season and Di Matteo added: "We played them twice in the league and both games were quite balanced in that sense.

"When you play a one-off game, it's difficult to say who's the favourite because of the form the team's in. The dynamic of the game is different.

"This is a decisive game. We are in good form. We've been getting some good results and the players are confident.''

Spurs have been above Chelsea virtually all season in the Barclays Premier League but have thrown away what looked set to be a 10-point advantage over them a month and a half ago to lead their London rivals by just two points going into Sunday's showdown.

The Blues were also boosted today by the news captain John Terry and left-back Ashley Cole would be fit to start, with only the suspended Branislav Ivanovic missing from their first-choice line-up.

Di Matteo could be forgiven for holding back most of the players he planned to use in Wednesday night's Champions League semi-final first leg against Barcelona.

But he said: "I will look at the team for Sunday and only think about what's best for that game - to win that game.''

Di Matteo admitted Terry was still not fully recovered from the cracked ribs he suffered two-and-a-half weeks ago but was improving all the time.

The Italian refused to be drawn on his team selection or whether he would pick players who had shone at Wembley in the past - like Didier Drogba.

"Whichever team I select, they have to put in a collective effort to win the game,'' he said.

"One player alone won't be able to do that."

On paper, Sunday's match is the least important of Chelsea's punishing end to the season, with qualification for the top four their top priority.

But asked whether he would sacrifice FA Cup glory for Champions League qualification, Di Matteo said simply: "I'd like both."

Victory on Sunday would arguably help in the latter aim, further denting Tottenham's confidence - after a run of one win in eight league games - as well as boosting that of Chelsea.

Di Matteo said: "Winning always has a positive psychological effect on individuals and the team. It would be a better outcome, winning, but I don't think it would have an influence on who will finish fourth.''

It will, however, decide whether Chelsea will be competing for one trophy or two when they face Barca next week.

Di Matteo said: "We have two opportunities, obviously, and we'll try to win them both. That's our aim, what we're working for."

He added: "It's the period of the season where you play for all the trophies, isn't it? We're very pleased to be involved in this."

Chelsea were far from pleased with the Spurs tie being scheduled for 6pm on a Sunday, days before they welcome Barca to Stamford Bridge.

But Di Matteo had put his "anger and disappointment" behind him today, saying: "I'm looking forward to the game now. I hope it's going to be a great game.

"Any time you play at Wembley, it should be a spectacle because of the arena you're playing in."

Di Matteo could be forgiven for pinching himself at managing a team in a Wembley semi-final barely a month after taking charge.

Chelsea's two-time FA Cup-winning hero said: "It certainly was a dream to be able to take the club you played for to a semi-final at Wembley."

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