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Jul 8, 2012

Di Matteo backs 'fantastic' Torres

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has warned Fernando Torres he is not assured of a place in his team despite returning from Euro 2012 as the Golden Boot winner - but expects him to be a "fantastic player" this season.

• Lampard dismisses MLS link

Torres' success in Poland and Ukraine has gone a long way to exorcising the demons of 18 horrific months at Chelsea. Despite winning the Champions League with the club in May, he still described being left on the bench for the final against Bayern in Munich as "maybe the biggest disappointment of my life".

The striker will return to Chelsea after an extended break following Spain's success at Euro 2012, but Di Matteo is not prepared to guarantee he will now have a place in his starting XI.

"We have three strikers at the moment in the squad, and I would not be saying who is going to be playing," Di Matteo said. "They will all have to fight for their position and there is healthy competition. Whoever is in the best form and can give the best for the team will be playing.

"There are no concerns about Fernando at all. I did have a chat with him the morning after the final, and have been in touch since as well. It (disappointment) was a feeling he had at the time, but I will continue to speak to the players.

"I am expecting him here in a good mood, to be buzzing and be very good next season. Certainly winning the Golden Boot and the Euros, along with the trophies they won with us should give the players a lot of confidence. I expect him next season to be a fantastic player with us."

Di Matteo also had words of praise of 34-year-old midfielder Frank Lampard, a player who is in the final year of his contract, and said John Terry would remain as captain.

The boss said: "It is not a question of overhauling the squad it is a question of finding the right players to integrate into the team. The face of the team will change over time as players move on or retire, but Frank and John Terry will be here next season for sure.

"Frank is a very fit man and can play for many years to come. He was very influential towards the end of last season maybe playing a little deeper role. He made some key passes and he performed very well. I was very happy. It depends on how he feels physically and mentally.

"At a certain age of course he will need a longer recovery time. I don't see any problems with him going on. The club will make the decision with Frank but certainly he'll be here next season.

"John Terry is our captain and our leader. He is one of the best defenders in the country. He was outstanding at the Euros and hopefully he will be the same for us next season."

Chelsea came in for criticism for the way they approached their Champions League games against Barcelona and Bayern, opting to play defensively in the face of an onslaught from their opponents. But Di Matteo insists that is not indicative of how the team will move forward.

"Chelsea have never been a defensive side over the years and won't turn into one overnight," Di Matteo explained. "There may be a tactical situation when you have to play like that but I can't see our club turning into a defensive side.

"It was successful the way we approached certain games but it was just three games and the rest of the games weren't approached like that."

Di Matteo also rubbished suggestions that defender Ryan Bertrand, who made his Champions League debut in the final, could be sold to Aston Villa.

"Ryan is a very talented player, who will get his opportunities to play and develop and will become a very good player," he added.

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