International Soccer
By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor - Archive - Email
Di Matteo facing crucial week at Chelsea
This week could prove to be hugely important in the future of Roberto Di Matteo at Chelsea.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It wasn't that long ago that Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo could do no wrong.

After taking over as caretaker manager for Andre Villas-Boas last March, Di Matteo helped guide Chelsea on an improbable run to the club's first Champions League title with a win over favored Bayern Munich in Germany.

Di Matteo was rewarded with a two-year contract a few weeks later, and he could have hardly gotten off to a better start in the Premiership this season as his side ran out to seven wins and a draw from its first eight matches.

But my, how quickly things can change at Stamford Bridge.

A 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich on Saturday left the Blues without a win in their last four league matches, dropping the club to third in the Premiership table.

Chelsea's Champions League campaign has also not been as straightforward as many would like with the team sitting tied atop its group with Shakhtar Donetsk, while Juventus looms only one point back.

The fact that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich changes managers as often as underwear is no secret. And with the team facing a pivotal away match against Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday followed by a big showdown at home against league-leaders Manchester City on Sunday, this week could prove to be hugely important in the future of Di Matteo at the club.

A loss at Juve would leave Chelsea's hopes of reaching the knockout round in a precarious position, while defeat against City would drop the Blues seven points back of last season's champions.

Not helping matters for Di Matteo is the fact that a handful of big names remain available to take his place, including Barcelona's Pep Guardiola.

Now is not exactly a good time for Di Matteo's men to have a dip in form, but the boss must find a way to turn things around in a hurry, which could include a new look to his team.

Earlier this season Chelsea was playing some of the most attractive soccer in Europe as midfield trio Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata were pulling the strings and helping to set up embattled striker Fernando Torres.

But Chelsea hasn't resembled that outfit recently as Torres has once again plunged into a goal drought with just one in his last seven games.

Di Matteo will have to make the difficult choice of whether or not to drop him from the team for Tuesday's showdown in Italy, while the boss must also cope with the injury absence of captain John Terry and try to figure out how to get his talented group of midfield players back firing on all cylinders once more.

Most teams go through a bit of a down period over the course of a season, but for Di Matteo, the timing could hardly be worse.

If Chelsea's slump continues this week don't be surprised to see Abramovich reach down into his seemingly endless pockets and step up his pursuit of a manager like Guardiola.

At Chelsea success is usually rewarded, but all too often the slightest signs of failure are punished.

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