London – Roberto Di Matteo has hinted strongly that Chelsea may abandon their attacking style in favour of a more defensive mentality after their 2-1 loss at West Bromwich Albion.
The Chelsea coach is concerned by his team's slump in form after seeing the European champions take just two points from four games and relinquish top spot in the Premier League.
And with a crucial Champions League game against Juventus in Turin on Tuesday evening followed by a Premier League meeting with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge next weekend, Di Matteo says it is time to tighten up.
Chelsea's midfield trio of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard have been lauded for their contribution to the team's expansive, attractive style this season.
But one of them may be sacrificed – if only temporarily – as Di Matteo's plans for Turin revert back towards the more obdurate approach he utilised to land the club's first ever Champions League title last May.
“We have played differently this season, but we might have to go a little bit tighter to win games and make sure we don't concede,” he said.
“Maybe it is time to look at it, change it, and get a win. We have massive games coming up, but we have players with a lot of experience in these situations.
“We cannot rely on scoring three goals to win a game. Sometimes you need to be able to win 1-0.
“We will look at the set-up of the team and maybe sacrifice a little of the attacking options.”
Di Matteo chose to leave Mata, Oscar and Ramires out of his starting line-up against Albion on Saturday, but rejected claims he was saving them for the Juventus clash.
Instead, the Chelsea manager said their mid-week globe-trotting to play international football with Spain and Brazil had shaped his thoughts.
All three came off the bench in the second half as Chelsea fought to retrieve a 2-1 deficit.
Shane Long fired West Brom into an early lead before Eden Hazard levelled just before half-time.
Long then set up Peter Odemwingie for the winner before Albion goalkeeper Boaz Myhill twice denied Daniel Sturridge an equaliser.
Albion coach Steve Clarke savoured victory over the club where he was a player and coach for 15 years, but had a special word for Long, who opted to play after receiving news this week of the death of his grandmother.
“He wanted to play and that is the measure of him. He is going back to Ireland tonight (Saturday) to be with his family,” said Clarke, whose side now sit fourth in the table.
“I ran out of words to describe Shane a few weeks ago. He has been outstanding for us this season and produced another fantastic display.
“There was a little bit of everything in our performance. There was quality attacking play, two good goals, and dogged defending at the end.
“It's a great time to be at the club. If our fans want to believe (about Champions League football) they can, but we will keep our feet on the ground and concentrate on the next match.
“Boaz Myhill has waited a long time for his chance, but I was not surprised by him because I see that every day on the training ground.” – Sapa-AFP