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Nov 19, 2012

Di Matteo shrugs off speculation

Roberto Di Matteo has played down concerns over his future as Chelsea boss and attempted to return the focus to the crucial Champions League meeting with Juventus.

• Blog: Chelsea blown down by WBA

Di Matteo was greeted with speculation about his future at Stamford Bridge following the 2-1 Premier League defeat against West Brom, a fourth league game without a win.

Chelsea have slumped from domestic league leaders to four points off the pace in that time and anything other than a win against Juventus in Italy on Tuesday night could leave the club on the brink of an early exit from the competition they won in Munich last May.

But Di Matteo insists his only concern is preparing Chelsea to face the Italian champions, insisting he is not willing to discuss his future.

"I'm not thinking about that," he said. "I'm preparing for the game and the team for tomorrow, and have important decisions to make about that.

"We are very confident we can have a good game and, hopefully, a good result. We know the importance of the game so motivation will be very high. It will be important we understand that and show the commitment."

Speculation was also rife that the Italian manager was planning to axe out-of-sorts Spanish striker Fernando Torres from his starting line-up, but he also remained tight-lipped on that, only saying: "I'll make the final decisions tonight."

Following the defeat at the Hawthorns furious arguments erupted in the Chelsea dressing room leading to reports of player discontent, but Di Matteo welcomed the frank exchanges.

"It's important that we communicate with each other, and the players express themselves. I've always encouraged that," he added.

"There was obviously frustration for the result on Saturday. It's normal when things don't go your way. We owe ourselves a good performance and anything can happen.

"But we've proven many times before that, when it counts, our players can be counted for. Everyone is fully committed."

And he urged his players to have faith in their ability to return to winning ways as a team.

They are joint-leaders of Champions League Group E, alongside Shakhtar Donetsk, but anything other than a win would leave them waiting until the final round of games to secure their safe passage.

"They need to have belief in themselves, and that's the most important aspect," Di Matteo said.

"We work together and, at the moment, we're all in it together and believe we have a good group, a good team, and are pulling together.

"Juventus will be tough opponents, but we played well against them in the first game at Stamford Bridge and we expect a positive performance again. It's almost a knock-out game a few months early, and nobody wants to become the first holders to be knocked out at this point."

Di Matteo went on to give an insight into the dressing room row that was heard by many observers following his side's defeat at The Hawthorns on Saturday, insisting the incident was a sign of the passion rippling through his squad.

"It's not the first time it's happened, to be honest," he said. "We demand a lot of ourselves and felt very disappointed and frustrated, so it's good sometimes. It's important we communicate with each other and the players express themselves, I've always encouraged that.

"I don't want people to accept poor performances and we all want to see a reaction. Now we certainly need a big performance. We've proven many times before that we can do it.

"There was frustration on Saturday and that's normal when results don't go your way. The players need to believe in themselves. We work together and at the moment we're all in it together."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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