Di Matteo: Let's show why we're champs
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has challenged his under-pressure team to justify their status as European champions as they prepare for what he describes as a 'must win' game against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night.
Chelsea's 2-1 defeat against Shakhtar two weeks ago leaves them precariously placed in Group E and Di Matteo has warned his team that nothing less than three points will suffice in their re-match with the Ukrainian champions at Stamford Bridge.
"This game is about our status as European champions and we need to play the perfect game to win," Di Matteo said. "We need to play a very good game and be at our best, but we have a strong record at home and have to work with that.
"We'll have to show that in this game and put Shakhtar under pressure. Every individual player going on the pitch has to perform at the highest of their ability because we have to win this game. The problem for us in Donetsk was conceding the early goal. That allowed them to play on the counter-attack rather than breaking us down so it's important we start well and get the crowd behind us and draw confidence from a good start.
"We had games last season in the Champions League that were also 'must win' matches. This is another like that. Fortunately we have players with the experience who have been through that before.What helps is the strong winning mentality that these players have and also the experience of playing and performing in big games like this. When we are at our best, we are a very strong team and everyone is fired up for this game."
Di Matteo has confirmed that he will head into the Shakhtar game without injured veterans Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard, but skipper John Terry will return to action after a spell on the sidelines following his suspension for domestic matches.
"Ashley won't be available for tomorrow because he has a problem with his hamstring," Di Matteo said. "He shouldn't be too long out but the game tomorrow is too soon for him.
"It's a real shame because he's got all the experience you need in games like this so it is a real blow for us. On the other hand JT is available again for us. In these games over a long season you have to take into consideration that you might have a few injuries."
Meanwhile Di Matteo insisted he is unconcerned about the rumours that have started to circulate linking former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola with his position at Chelsea.
"I am used to these kind of rumours," he added. "It's been there from day one, so it doesn't affect me too much. I have my own destiny in my hands and the club and the owner are behind me."
The Chelsea boss confirmed Ryan Bertrand will start in place of Cole against Shakhtar, while he was hopeful that both David Luiz and Juan Mata will shake off minor injury knocks to take their place in his starting line-up.