Friday 24 November 2017

Di Matteo has little sympathy for rivals

Simon Johnson

Chelsea interim first-team coach Roberto Di Matteo admits he will have little sympathy for Newcastle United if his side deprive them of a place in the Champions League by winning the competition later this month.

Chelsea still hope to qualify for next season's tournament via a top-four finish in the league and will move above Newcastle, who are one point ahead of them in fifth, if they beat Alan Pardew's side at Stamford Bridge tonight.

But if the club end up falling short of their target in the Premier League, they can still book their spot by beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League final on May 19.

However, that would mean the team that finishes fourth in the Premier League will miss out and Newcastle have a real chance of being the victims of Uefa's rule as they only trail Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference.

When asked if he would feel sorry for Newcastle if that situation occurs, Di Matteo said: "No. It is important for us to try and win it and whatever the consequences for somebody else, it doesn't bother us. But we are still thinking positively about trying to reach fourth spot and be able to qualify for the Champions League next season."

This evening's match comes just three days before the FA Cup final against Liverpool, but Di Matteo has told his players they must forget the Wembley occasion and focus on Newcastle.

Asked if he feared some players may be more intent on avoiding injury for fear of missing Saturday's match, he added: "We cannot allow ourselves to think like that and I think we've shown before that we don't do that. We know how important the game is for our club and the players who are going to be playing will be fully committed."

Chelsea welcome back Branislav Ivanovic from suspension, but David Luiz and Gary Cahill are still ruled out with hamstring injuries. However, both players trained yesterday and are close to a return. Di Matteo is now confident they will be fit for the Champions League final, for which Ivanovic, Ramires, Raul Meireles and captain John Terry are banned.

Newcastle will also need to break their capital lack of momentum this season. They have lost three times and drawn once in London this season, conceding 12 goals. "I think fifth place is important as well," said Magpies boss Alan Pardew, as if to emphasise the clouded nature of the season, even so near to its end. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport