Di Matteo eyes trophy opportunities
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has welcomed the chance to compete on seven fronts this season - despite the prospect of another fixture pile-up for his side. The Blues' march towards Champions League and FA Cup glory last term thrust them into a punishing schedule that arguably contributed to them finishing their worst Premier League place of the Roman Abramovich era - sixth.
Many of Chelsea's stars then went on to play at one or both of the European Championship and Olympic Games and there is no respite this season, with the club involved in the most competitions in their history. On top of their commitments in the UEFA Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup, the Blues' unprecedented success opened the door to the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
Despite this setting up a packed calendar, Di Matteo insists he would not have it any other way this term as he targets the first available piece of silverware tomorrow, the Community Shield. He said of the three additional trophies: "They're opportunities.
"It's very hard to be involved in those competitions. When you look at them, it's great to be involved and you want to win these trophies because they don't come around very often. That's how we look at it. We'll deal with the fixture list."
Chelsea have a well-established policy of fielding youngsters in the League Cup, while Di Matteo rested several of his key players during last season's Premier League run-in after his side reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup. The difference this term is that the Blues have arguably even more strength in depth in attacking areas, having splashed out a reported £66m on the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin.
That should allow Di Matteo to rotate without weakening the side and he was looking for everyone to accept that state of affairs in order to help the club compete seriously on as many fronts as possible."We are going to try and win the trophies we're involved in," Di Matteo said ahead of tomorrow's Villa Park clash with Manchester City.
"It takes a collective effort to achieve that. You have to be able to work with everybody and everybody has to try and give their best - even if they're sometimes out of the team for a while."
Di Matteo admitted it could take time to work out exactly where and when to fit in his new signings alongside established stars Frank Lampard, Juan Mata and Ramires. "Some adapt a bit quicker than others, so we'll have to be patient," he said. "The good players can always play together. We will find the right way to do that, and the right balance within the team. That's important."
The Italian has not even had a chance to work out exactly what part Oscar will play, with the £25m man still on Olympics duty with Brazil. After playing today's men's final at Wembley, the 20-year-old will remain on international duty for his country's friendly against Sweden on Wednesday before returning to his new club.
Di Matteo said: "Then we'll assess him and see how he is. We'll take it from there. It's too early to say which game he will be involved in."
Chelsea are still planning more signings, including a striker, but Di Matteo insisted that would not mean more frustration for Daniel Sturridge, who has repeatedly declared his desire to challenge Fernando Torres for the centre-forward berth.
Sturridge played nearly all of last season out wide and Di Matteo said: "I see him as part of my plans, absolutely. He's part of the squad and the team, and still has a lot to give. He still has a lot to learn as well, but we're hopeful he can develop even more and become a fantastic and great player for us."