If Chelsea owner Roman
Abramovich is still leafing through CVs looking for a long-term
replacement for Andre Villas-Boas, he could do a lot worse than
give the job to interim manager Roberto Di Matteo.
The Italian has engineered a remarkable turnaround in the
London club's fortunes since taking over on a temporary basis
last month, leading them to the final of the FA Cup and, perhaps
more importantly given Abramovich's obsession with winning the
competition, a Champions League final.
Under Di Matteo, their former player, Chelsea managed to get
past a team many consider to be the best the game has ever seen,
beating Pep Guardiola's Barcelona 1-0 in London last week and
then fighting back from 2-0 down with 10 men on Tuesday to
snatch a 2-2 draw and knock the holders out 3-2 on aggregate.
"We've had a difficult season but they always managed to
produce something special when we had to and I think that's part
of the DNA of these players," Di Matteo said.
It was not pretty, with all of the Chelsea players pitching
in to thwart waves of attacks orchestrated by Lionel Messi,
Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas, and they needed a large
slice of luck in both legs of the semi-final.
But the 41-year-old Di Matteo now has a chance to give his
Russian billionaire boss what the millions spent on players has
so far failed to produce - a European title.
At his post-match news conference at the Nou Camp, Di Matteo
was characteristically modest and calmly attributed all of the
team's success to his players.
He should take some of the credit, however, after having to
shuffle his defence following an early injury to Gary Cahill and
the dismissal of captain John Terry just before half-time, while
introducing a fresh-legged Fernando Torres late on proved an
inspired decision when he netted the equaliser.
"We had all the difficulties you can imagine in any football
game tonight and we managed to qualify against Barcelona which
is quite incredible," added Di Matteo, whose side are sixth in
the Premier League after struggling under Villas-Boas.
"I was just trying to get the best out of the group of
players that we have."
Di Matteo will face another challenge preparing his team for
next month's final when they will play Real Madrid, coached by
former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, or Bayern Munich.
They will head to the showpiece in the Bavarian capital with
Terry, defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfielders Ramires and
Raul Meireles all suspended, while Cahill faces a race to be fit
along with injured centre-back David Luiz, who missed Tuesday's
"For the moment we will try to enjoy this night," Di Matteo
said. "Then we'll see who is available and I am sure we'll put a
strong team together that will do the club proud."
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