Di Matteo: Eyeing a big season with Chelsea
The Blues finally ended their agonising wait for Champions League glory in May, winning the trophy that had been their Holy Grail ever since Roman Abramovich bought the club nine years ago.
Having achieved their ultimate aim, the biggest danger for Di Matteo and his squad may be motivating themselves to do it all over again.
But manager Di Matteo insisted this afternoon his players – who are also FA Cup holders – had an insatiable appetite for success ahead of a season in which they will compete for an unprecedented seven trophies.
The first of those is up for grabs in Sunday’s traditional curtain-raiser to the season, the Community Shield, which is being played this year at Villa Park.
“There’s plenty of trophies to win this season,” Di Matteo said ahead of the clash against Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City.
“We have a very driven team of players and they are never satisfied with what they’ve done in the past.
“It’s a fresh start for us. It won’t be a problem from that point of view.
“There are a couple of trophies our players have never won, and challenging for the Premier League, too.
“We finished sixth last season and I don’t think anybody is happy with that. We certainly have to do better.”
Indeed, avoiding a repeat of their lowest league finish of the Abramovich era has to be a priority for Chelsea, who were a distant 25 points behind City and Manchester United in the final standings.
“There was a big gap last season, and that is one of our challenges this season, to bridge that gap,” Di Matteo said.
“Twenty-five points are a lot of points.
“It’ll be a tough season ahead but we’ll try and compete.”
Abramovich has left little doubt that is exactly what he expects by splashing out another reported £66million of his vast fortune on the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin.
Despite being linked with several players themselves, City have yet to spend a penny, which may give some of their title rivals a better chance of toppling them.
“When you’re the top, it’s harder to stay at the top than get to the top,” Di Matteo said.
“There’ll be plenty of clubs trying to catch them up this season.”
Sunday is Chelsea’s chance to make a statement of intent against the champions.
Despite playing down the significance of the outcome, Di Matteo said: “To play and win against Manchester City would be a great win for us.
“It would certainly give us the right step into the Premier League.”
It would also end a run of three successive pre-season defeats that have suggested integrating Chelsea’s new signings may prove easier said than done.
With Brazil star Oscar still on Olympics duty ahead of tomorrow’s men’s final, it could be well into the season before the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit into place.
Di Matteo refused to set a deadline for that to happen but it is fair to say his job may depend on it being sooner rather than later.
And there could soon be more new signings to accommodate, with Di Matteo admitting Chelsea were “a little bit light” up front and confirming teenage striker Romelu Lukaku was set to go out on loan to another Premier League club – seemingly West Brom.
The inscrutable Italian reacted with mock ignorance to Wigan chairman Dave Whelan’s repeated public declarations that the Blues were trying to buy Victor Moses, joking: “He generally doesn’t do that, does he?”
He also refused to be drawn on Chelsea’s reported attempts to buy Marseille right-back Cesar Azpilicueta.
And Di Matteo did not want to discuss the Football Association’s decision to charge John Terry over allegations he racially abused Anton Ferdinand despite the Chelsea captain being cleared of essentially the same offence by a court of law.
Di Matteo said: “That’s a very delicate issue. I’ll keep my thoughts private.”