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Fans await Di Matteo’s first team selection

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iol spt mar5 Di Matteo

AFP

Chelsea fans, fed up and disillusioned with a series of bewildering decisions by the sacked Andre Villas-Boas, cannot wait to find out the team his successor Roberto Di Matteo picks for his first game in charge.

London - Chelsea fans, fed up and disillusioned with a series of bewildering decisions by the sacked Andre Villas-Boas, cannot wait to find out the team his successor Roberto Di Matteo picks for his first game in charge.

It will be fascinating to see if Di Matteo kicks off his spell as interim coach in Tuesday's FA Cup fifth round replay at second tier Birmingham City by tackling the issues that have been troubling the Stamford Bridge faithful for several months.

Will the error-prone David Luiz be finally shipped out of the centre of the defence? Is fan favourite Frank Lampard about to be restored as a permanent fixture in midfield after being chopped and changed so often by Villas-Boas?

Can Di Matteo reshape the team in order to finally spark some life into the out-of-sorts Fernando Torres or will he go with youth and give Daniel Sturridge the chance to play in his favoured position as the spearhead of the attack?

Reports have been swirling in the British media for weeks about rifts between the management and some of the squad but former assistant coach Ray Wilkins dismissed the idea player power was behind Villas-Boas's removal on Sunday.

“I don't think the players swayed the owner (Roman Abramovich),” Wilkins told Talksport radio. “It appears they are looking for squad change at Chelsea and I just feel they went about it too quickly with AVB.

“To change what has been such a force, not only in the Premier League but in European football, overnight - you just cannot do that. It takes a gradual adjustment.

“Chelsea have gone hammer and tongs at it and they should have taken time in switching over,” added former club captain Wilkins, who also worked as assistant coach to Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.

Villas-Boas's sacking may have delayed the “switch over” but an evolution, if not a revolution, of the playing staff is inevitable.

Didier Drogba used to scare the life out of opposition defences and has rightly earned a place in Chelsea's hall of fame but his powers have rapidly diminished since he scored 37 goals under Ancelotti in the 2010 Premier League and FA Cup winning season.

Lampard's form has also been in decline but many supporters believe Villas-Boas should have followed Alex Ferguson's lead by embracing the ageing England midfielder in the way the Manchester United coach has with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, rather than alienating him.

Ashley Cole, Florent Malouda and John Terry will also be looking over their shoulders although the captain's inspirational value to the side has been sorely missed in recent weeks.

Injury has kept Terry out of the last seven matches and during that spell Chelsea have lost three times, drawn three times and won just once.

In his absence Luiz has formed a central defensive pairing with England's Gary Cahill but the ball-playing Brazilian always looks like a mistake waiting to happen.

Luiz was to blame for the third goal in last month's 3-1 Champions League first knockout round first leg defeat at Napoli when he tried to play his way out of a tight situation rather than simply clear his lines.

The London club have won three Premier League titles and three FA Cups since Abramovich took over as owner in 2003 but the Champions League, the trophy the Russian billionaire craves the most, has so far eluded them.

Having gone through seven managers in nine years, Wilkins believes it is time for Chelsea to go back to former coach Jose Mourinho, who won the Premier League in 2005 and 2006.

“It is almost as if all options have been exhausted,” said Wilkins. “I would say Mourinho for the job now because I think he will leave Real Madrid.

“I think he will win La Liga comfortably this season and he will think his job's done. He, for me, would be the perfect option for Chelsea.” – Reuters


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