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Blues' focus in on Italian job

ROBERTO DI MATTEO says he has not considered the consequences of defeat against Juventus in tonight's crucial Champions League game, and that his Chelsea squad are united as he ponders the most important selection of his eight-month tenure at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea must avoid defeat in the magnificent new Stadio Juventus if they are to be certain of continuing their defence of this competition, and the game comes with Di Matteo facing speculation over his own future after four Premier League games without a win.

Speaking as the Chelsea squad completed their final training session before he selected the side to take on Juventus, Di Matteo declined to discuss whether he had spoken with owner Roman Abramovich, and said the players were united behind him.

"I'm not thinking about (my future), I'm preparing the game and the team for tomorrow, and have important decisions to make about that," he said.

"We are very confident we can have a good game and, hopefully, a good result. They (the players) need to have belief in themselves, and that's the most important aspect.

"We work together and, at the moment, we're all in it together and believe we have a good group, a good team, and are pulling together. We believe we can get a positive result."

Chelsea arrived in Turin after a loss at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday that prompted an angry dressing-room inquest, but Di Matteo said he was happy to see players respond in such a way after a defeat.

"It's important that we communicate with each other, and the players express themselves," he said. "I've always encouraged that.

"There was obviously frustration for the result on Saturday, it's normal when things don't go your way.

"We owe ourselves a good performance and anything can happen. But we've proven many times before that, when it counts, our players can be counted for. Everyone is fully committed."

If the players' commitment is not in doubt, the final selection is. Di Matteo said he would finalise his selection after training yesterday and tell the team today, with the central quandary whether to persist with Fernando Torres, whose £50million price-tag becomes more remarkable with every limp performance.

The Spaniard had a desperate afternoon at the Hawthorns and was replaced after an hour, with Daniel Sturridge offering a far greater threat in his 30-minute turn up front.

But it is far from certain that the Spaniard will be dropped for such an important game, given the politics and personnel at play.

Chelsea managers have had their fate decided in an Italian cauldron before. Nine months ago Andre Villas-Boas circulated a teamsheet for a last-16 tie in Naples that amounted to a suicide note. He dropped Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, and a 3-1 defeat signalled the beginning of the end.

Di Matteo was part of Villas-Boas's staff in Naples that night, and it has been suggested he counselled against such a drastic selection gamble.

Were he to drop Torres tonight it would be a comparable risk, though there are sound reasons given the Spaniard's form.

Torres has started every game for which he has been available this season and has scored six goals without ever suggesting a return to the form of his prime.

But he remains hugely experienced, one of a number of factors that may stay Di Matteo's hand.

There is also the risk involved in leaving out a player so beloved of the owner. With Pep Guardiola ready to end his sabbatical next season Di Matteo's job prospects may be limited in the medium term, but defeat for a side not featuring Torres could bring matters to a head, and make an already twitchy Stamford Bridge hierarchy even jumpier.

Nevertheless, Di Matteo said again that he would not hesitate to drop Torres. "I always said that we have two strikers in our team, Fernando and Daniel Sturridge. They're both fit and I'll have to see how we're going to go tomorrow. (I will do) whatever I believe is best for this game."

It was not a ringing endorsement of the Spaniard, and his name was absent when Di Matteo discussed the players for whom he would seek leadership.

With John Terry and Lampard injured, and Didier Drogba departed, Chelsea have a new spine, and Di Matteo expects them to deliver.

"We still have plenty of experienced players in the team, and leaders. Petr Cech is there. We have Branislav Ivanovic, Jon Obi Mikel, who has been playing for many, many years now, and Juan Mata. There are plenty of players who can be leaders who will be out on the pitch here as well. I think everybody will have to show a bit of leadership in a game like this."

Ashley Cole is expected to play after recent injury, bringing some much needed defensive nous to a side who have conceded 18 times in eight games.

Di Matteo must then decide how to strengthen the team's shape, a priority after recent games, and with Andrea Pirlo plotting another dissection of English hopes. "We need to be more focused, pay more attention when we defend certain situations," he said.