Roberto Di Matteo has admitted it is crunch time for his new-look Chelsea side ahead of Sunday’s mouthwatering showdown with Manchester United.
The European champions have stormed to the top of the English Premier League this season with a scintillating new brand of attacking football. But they are not quite the finished article, a stark reminder of which came during what was their first major setback of the season in Tuesday night’s Champions League defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk.
And, with John Terry and Frank Lampard both missing for Sunday’s clash at Stamford Bridge and the following two games through suspension and injury, the coming days will provide the biggest insight yet into how able Chelsea’s new guard are to cope without two of their most talismanic figures.
“We’ve had a good start, but we need to show consistency over a long period of time,” said Di Matteo, whose side are four points clear at the top of the table. “We have a busy fixture list now coming up. So, it will be a test for us, a challenge for us, and it will also test the depth of our squad. The players that have come in have settled in quickly and that’s been a big bonus for us, and I think thanks to the support as well from the club and from all the other team members that we already had here.”
Di Matteo has so far succeeded where so many before him have failed by managing a successful transition between the blueprint first established under Jose Mourinho to something more akin to the style favoured by Barcelona. The Italian was coy about whether United would be facing the most attractive Chelsea side of the Roman Abramovich era tomorrow.
“I’ll leave that up to you to decide whether it is or not,” said the Italian, refusing to reveal whether his revolution was meeting with the approval of Abramovich, who has long demanded more flair in the team. “Our belief is that, with the players that we have, it’s our best chance to win games, playing like this.”