Chelsea V Newcastle at Stamford Bridge : Match Preview
Di Matteo concentrating on Newcastle clash
Roberto Di Matteo has revealed there were still FA Cup final places up for grabs in his Chelsea side as he refused to rule out shock comebacks for David Luiz and Gary Cahill. Caretaker Blues boss Di Matteo is confident his squad will not hold back in tomorrow night's crucial Barclays Premier League game against Newcastle, regardless of the match taking place less than three days before their Wembley meeting with Liverpool. The Stamford Bridge clash against the Magpies is arguably more important than Saturday's showpiece, with Di Matteo's number one priority ensuring Chelsea qualify for next season's Champions League. And while the Italian has not resorted to banning any mention of the final ahead of tomorrow's game, he left no doubt where his focus lay.
"We've not talked about it at all," he said of the Liverpool game, insisting he had yet to pick his team for Wembley. "I'm deciding for the game tomorrow. "We'll see how the game goes tomorrow and then I'll be thinking about Saturday." Asked if that meant performances against Newcastle would be taken into account, he said: "Yes. Not just on Wednesday. "I look a little bit more back and look at maybe the last three or four weeks and the way we played and the different players in positions and so on." It would only be human for players to subconsciously hold back for fear of injuring themselves, but Di Matteo said: "We cannot allow ourselves to think like that and I think we've shown before that we don't do that, in the semi-final against Spurs before the Champions League semi-final, and at Arsenal and so on. "I don't think that'll be an issue for us. "We know how important the game is for our club and the players who are going to be playing will be fully committed." Defenders Luiz and Cahill will miss the match, both with hamstring injuries, but both were seen running at Chelsea's training ground. Di Matteo said they will be reassessed again on Thursday and Friday and while it looks unlikely Cahill in particular will be fit for the weekend, Di Matteo was optimistic of both being back before the Champions League final. He said: "Hopefully, they'll be ready before. I have hope but we don't know yet."
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has admitted his players might have had one eye on the Champions League as their chances of getting there were dealt a major blow. The Magpies head for Chelsea having slipped out of the top four as a result of their 4-0 drubbing at Wigan on Saturday, a result which allowed Tottenham to climb back above them on goal difference and the Blues to close the gap to a single point. With three games left to play, Pardew's men could yet finish anywhere between third and sixth in the Barclays Premier League, and that means the prospect of Champions League football returning to St James' Park remains alive, if less likely than it was on Saturday morning. In that respect, the game could be regarded as a dress rehearsal for the type of fixture that might lie ahead. Pardew said: "Absolutely, and that's how we should approach it. Our players, perhaps you could argue, might have had one eye on it, I don't know. "But we certainly didn't turn up in the first half at Wigan, and I am pretty sure we will have a different mentality on Wednesday night. "There's no expectation on us, but there is pride because we hurt our pride on Saturday and we are all hurting a little bit."
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