Di Matteo facing Euro defensive crisis

Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo has revealed that he remains unsure whether Gary Cahill or David Luiz will be fit enough to return to action in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on May 19 (Bayern 4/5, Draw 13/5, Chelsea 7/2 – Match Betting with bet365).

The Blues are desperate for both to return as captain John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic are both suspended for the showpiece clash at the Allianz Arena (Bayern 4/9, Chelsea 7/4 – Tournament Outright with bet365).

The duo are expected to pair up at the heart of the defence if fit – but Di Matteo has now revealed that he cannot be sure when either player will be back from their respective hamstring injuries.

Cahill suffered his injury in the Champions League semi-final second leg at the Nou Camp and has missed the last three games, while Luiz has been ruled out for six matches since being injured in the FA Cup semi-final against Spurs.

“We have injuries, we had five players unavailable and we need to see how the players are after tonight,” said Di Matteo after the 4-1 defeat at Liverpool.

“I would love to have all the players who are unavailable for the final available.

“We are working towards their [Luiz and Cahill] fitness and trying to get them back as soon as we can, but I can’t put an exact date on it.”

 

Di Matteo ready for ‘difficult’ decisions

Roberto di Matteo has confirmed he has tough selection decisions to make for Chelsea ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup Final with Liverpool (Liverpool 11/10, Chelsea 8/11 To Lift The Trophy with bet365).

Defensive duo David Luiz and Gary Cahill are both out of the Wembley showpiece with hamstring problems, but are still hopeful of making the Champions League final, and those two are the only missing players for the Italian manager.

Di Matteo admits it will be ‘difficult’ to disappoint some faces and leave them out, with a lot of competition in midfield and also the choice to make between Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba – two in-form forwards seemingly vying for one striking spot.

Chelsea are looking to win the trophy for a fourth time in six years and, for di Matteo, it would mean success in the competition as both a player and manager for the Blues (Liverpool 15/8, draw 9/4, Chelsea 6/4 90 Minutes Match Betting with bet365).

The interim manager has transformed Chelsea’s season since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas at the beginning of March and, despite admitting it would be tricky, he claims to be unafraid of making tough selection decisions.

“It’s a question of what is best for the team and if I feel it would be best for the team then I would do it but it all depends on what is our best team and formation to win the game tomorrow. I’ll take everything into consideration,” he said.

“What is important is the players still have the ambition to want to win another FA Cup. That’s very important motivation. It’s great for this club to be involved in another cup final. We’ve got a good tradition in this competition and hopefully we can continue this.”

Di Matteo sweating on Luiz fitness

Bet on the Champions LeagueRoberto Di Matteo has admitted David Luiz is doubtful for Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final first-leg against Barcelona (Chelsea 4/1, Barca 7/10, draw 11/4 – bet365 first leg prices) after he picked up an injury in the FA Cup semi-final victory over Spurs.

The Blues made it past local rivals Spurs thanks to an impressive second-half showing and will now meet Liverpool back at Wembley on May 5 in the final.

However, their victory may have come at a price as Luiz has become the latest player to pick up an injury. The Portuguese was substituted in the win and now faces a real battle to be fit for the final run-in to the season and the huge Barca tie on Wednesday.

When asked if Luiz is likely to be fit for the Champions League game, he said: “It looks to be doubtful at the moment for the next game.”

Luiz is not Di Matteo’s only worry, though, as Didier Drogba picked up a hamstring injury and may also be ruled out, while Luiz’s replacement, Gary Cahill, also picked up a knock and John Terry continues to play through the pain barrier with broken ribs.

The interim Chelsea boss is hopeful that the majority of his walking wounded will recover in time.

Di Matteo added: “We’ve picked up some bruises and niggly injuries, so it’s a matter of assessing the team. I think the boys are looking quite fit at the moment.

“I was just focusing and concentrating on this game to go to the final.”

Following the Barca game, Chelsea are back in Premier League action when they take on fellow top-four hopefuls Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday (Arsenal EVENS, Chelsea 14/5, draw 12/5 – bet365 match prices).

AVB eyes defensive stability

Andre Villas-Boas has revealed he is happy to put his faith in the new centre-back pairing of Gary Cahill and David Luiz as Chelsea look to get their campaign back on some sort of an even keel (Chelsea Evens to Finish In Top 4 with bet365).

The former Porto boss is coming under increasing pressure as the Blues have struggled this season under his stewardship, having no chance of winning the title after falling 17 points behind the leaders while they have now slipped out of the top four, albeit on goal difference.

To make matters worse, the club’s Champions League aspirations are hanging by a thread after a 3-1 defeat at Napoli in midweek, while the Blues were held to a 1-1 draw by Championship side Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup.

Villas-Boas is going to be without influential captain John Terry for up to six weeks after he aggravated a knee problem, but the Portuguese tacitician is confident that Cahill and Luiz can work together and bring stability to the backline.

“At the moment we have a new partnership that we are trying to fine tune to be more stable at the back, like we were in January,” Villas-Boas said.

“Both of them are very extrovert, Gary speaks a lot, organises a lot. It is not about communication.

“It just takes time, it’s a new partnership and you have to get used to the person next to you.

“I am happy with Gary. He has been excellent in the games he has played.”

The two defenders have shipped seven goals during their three-game partnership to date but will continue together this weekend with Cahill taking on former employers Bolton at the Bridge on Saturday (Chelsea 3/10, Draw 9/2, Bolton 9/1 match betting on bet365).

Defender-seeking AVB hails Terry focus

Andre Villas-Boas has praised John Terry following the 1-1 draw at Tottenham (Chelsea and Spurs both 20/1 with bet365 to win Premier League) for the way he has handled his off-field problems, while revealing he will be looking to bring another centre-half to Chelsea when the transfer window opens.

The England captain only discovered on Wednesday that he would face criminal charges over an incident with QPR defender Anton Ferdinand back in October, and faced a barrage of taunts from the crowd at White Hart Lane on Thursday night.

However, he was in inspirational form for the Blues in the 1-1 draw and blocked a goal-bound shot from Emmanuel Adebayor in stoppage time to secure a share of the spoils.

“His performances have increased since the incident happened,” Villas-Boas said. “His commitment, quality and talent are never in doubt.

“He’s completely focused on the cause of this football club.”

Chelsea will be sweating on news over Branislav Ivanovic, who was forced off through injury, and with Alex not considered after handing in a transfer request, Villas-Boas has confirmed that a defender is a top priority in January.

“We could have David Luiz available to return on Boxing Day,” said Villas-Boas. “But we are in the market for another centre-half and we have to respond quickly when the transfer window opens.”

Chelsea, who have been linked with a move for Bolton’s Gary Cahill, will be looking to put pressure on the sides above them when they play Fulham (Chelsea 3/10, draw 4/1, Fulham 11/1 in the match betting on bet365) in an early kick off on Boxing Day.