Chelsea will be without Ashley Cole for the visit of Shakhtar tonight. The left back has a hamstring injury and despite it not being rated as a serious issue, it is unclear how long he will be out for. The injury may keep him from winning his 100th England cap against Sweden next week.
Ryan Bertrand has been backed as the man to replace Cole for the crucial tie with Shakhtar, and could perhaps also take his place in the England squad. Roberto Di Matteo praised the youngster saying:
"Ryan has always performed very well for us every time he's played.
"He's got that little bit of experience that helps and I have full confidence in him that he'll play a great game."
Chelsea are able to play skipper John Terry tonight, and David Luiz should also recover from his injury in time, meaning Di Matteo will have to decide whether to reinstate Terry ahead of Cahill or Luiz. Branislav Ivanovic has called for greater compactness from whoever plays alongside him at the back for Chelsea tonight. The right back has said that the team’s new attacking dynamism cannot come at too great a cost to the defence that was at the heart of their European campaign last year.
The round of matches tonight will have huge significance in deciding the group. With three sides still in a good position to qualify, and Juventus likely to beat Nordsjaelland in Turin, anything less than a win for Chelsea will probably see them dropping to third in the group going into the last two matches. As a result Mircea Lucescu believes Chelsea will be under great pressure from their fans. Interestingly, Lucescu was the man to last lead an away side to a Champion’s League win at Stamford Bridge, when his Besiktas side won 2-0 in 2003.
Di Matteo has called for more focus from his players in Europe. Despite their impressive Premier League form Chelsea have begun the defence of their title in lacklustre fashion, with their only win so far coming over Nordsjaelland. The Chelsea manager is confident that his side’s impressive record in big matches will stand them in good stead tonight.
Di Matteo also said that he is unconcerned by the recent rumours linking Pep Guardiola with a move to Stamford Bridge. The Chelsea manager responded by saying:
"I have my own destiny in my hands and the club and the owner is behind it,"
In other news, Chelsea have banned the fan accused of making racist gestures during their League Cup clash with Manchester United whilst the investigation into his actions continues.
Chelsea are reportedly lining up a move for highly rated Fiorentina forward Steven Jovetic. Blues scouts watched Jovetic pick up a goal and an assist in his sides’ recent 4-1 win over Catania. Jovetic is valued at around £32 million.
image: © Ben Sutherland