A Champiosn League away win against Benefica last night gives Chelsea a strong advantage in their quarter final showdown. Just two weeks ago they looked all but out of the competition before interim manager Robeto Di Matteo led to the team to a memorable 4-1 victory at Stamford Bridge. And now they take a lead back to Stamford Bridge for their quarter final second leg in a fortnight’s time.
But the main talking point is without doubt the bravery manager Di Matteo has shown since taking temporary charge a month ago. Whilst it has been noticeable that Sir Alex Ferguson has turned to his old guard recently in the Premier League, for last nights game Di Matteo rested veteran players Lampard, Essien and Drogba – and his decisions paid off.
Just less than six weeks ago at Napoli, when Villas-Boas omitted Essien, Cole and Lampard in the previous round, it seemed to be a suicide note. However the interim coach’s decisions seemed acceptable and understandable, after a game at White Hart Lane on Saturday in which the three in question all looked jaded. The Italian proved he is willing to make big decisions in big games and when out of favour striker Saloman Kalou scored the winner on the 75th minute mark, it all seemed to make perfect sense. And there was certainly no sign of squad distress at the end of the game when the group togetherness was more than obvious.
It is strongly believed Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will look for a permanent replacement for Villas-Boas at the end of the season. However it is also well known that Abramovich wants Champions League success, and if Di Matteo continues to manage the squad in this fashion then Chelsea may find them selves looking a bit closer to home for their next permanent manager.