Di Matteo impressing in Chelsea role

Updated: 30 March 2012 12:58 IST

Roberto Di Matteo remains a rank outsider to land the Chelsea job on a permanent basis but there is little doubt the interim manager has overseen a transformation in the club's campaign.

Di Matteo impressing in Chelsea role
©

London:

Roberto Di Matteo remains a rank outsider to land the Chelsea job on a permanent basis but there is little doubt the interim manager has overseen a transformation in the club's campaign.

Under Di Matteo's watch, the Blues have lined up an FA Cup semi-final showdown with Tottenham Hotspur and, more impressively, have one foot in the last four of the Champions League following the midweek win at Benfica.

If Chelsea can maintain their recent run of success by beating Aston Villa at Villa Park, they will strengthen their bid to finish in the top four, reinforcing the view that their season is finally on the up.

A five-point gap separates Di Matteo's side from fourth placed Tottenham but with Harry Redknapp's side due to face Swansea 24 hours later, a Chelsea victory will increase the pressure on their London rivals.

Di Matteo has so far shown himself to be adept at managing his squad's resources, drawing improved performances from Fernando Torres and David Luiz.

And while Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien were all left out of the starting line-up in Lisbon, the temporary manager has been careful not to alienate senior players in the way his predecessor Andre Villas-Boas was accused of doing.

The new found optimism has replaced the pessimism that dogged Villas-Boas's final weeks and Juan Mata, the Spanish playmaker, believes the club can legitimately start thinking about landing silverware.

"It will not be easy, but we are alive and are fighting for the Champions League and FA Cup," Mata said.

"We will try to finish the Premier League in third or fourth position and will fight for that.

"Every player is involved to achieve our objectives in the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League.

"We have a lot of games every week and I think it is a clever decision to rotate the squad."

Torres' improved form has been a feature of Chelsea's recent performances although reports that the player's agent Antonio Sanz has suggested the striker would "evaluate his future" in the coming months indicate the Spaniard has yet to bed in at Stamford Bridge.

Villa defender Carlos Cuellar, though, believes his countryman is nearing a return to his best.

Torres recently ended his 151-day goal drought with a double against Leicester in the FA Cup and created Tuesday's winner in the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Benfica.

"It will be a challenge against Fernando Torres because he is a great striker, but it will be one that I will look forward to because he is from Spain also," said Cuellar.

"Fernando is a strong player. Of course, he has had some problems this season but maybe people are starting to see him back to his best.

"For a lot of the time he was not scoring goals but he was still doing well. Now he is finding the net again, so he will have taken a lot of confidence from that. Hopefully he will not have a great game on Saturday though."

Last weekend's 3-0 defeat to Arsenal has left Villa looking anxiously over their shoulders with the gap between them and the bottom three having been closed to eight points.

"We have to keep our heads up now," Cuellar added. "We are at home and we still have confidence and belief in ourselves despite the result."

Manager Alex McLeish has a mammoth injury list to contend with and is expected to be without Darren Bent (ankle), Richard Dunne (collarbone), Ciaran Clark (knee), Alan Hutton (calf) and Charles N'Zogbia (knee)

Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov has been fighting a fever and faces a late fitness test, while James Collins and Emile Heskey are both carrying knocks.

Related Articles
Chelsea Cancel Premier League Victory Parade After Manchester Attack
Chelsea Cancel Premier League Victory Parade After Manchester Attack
Spain Supreme Court Confirms Lionel Messi Fraud Sentence
Spain Supreme Court Confirms Lionel Messi Fraud Sentence
Jose Mourinho Says Manchester Attack Victims in United's 'Minds And Hearts'
Jose Mourinho Says Manchester Attack Victims in United's 'Minds And Hearts'
Show Comments
Advertisement