Di Matteo: Blues are feeling Terry absence
Roberto Di Matteo has admitted Chelsea have been missing John Terry after their defensive problems deepened ahead of the Barclays Premier League game at Swansea.
The European champions were all over the place at the back in Wednesday night's dramatic Capital One Cup win over Manchester United and were hardly any better in Sunday's first league defeat of the season against the same opponents.
They have now conceded 11 goals in just four games since Terry began his domestic racism ban, although the Chelsea captain did play in one of them when he started their Champions League defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Terry serves the final instalment of his ban on Saturday, while manager Di Matteo revealed fellow defender David Luiz would almost certainly miss the Swansea game though injury.
That would mean Branislav Ivanovic being pressed into centre-back service in a new-look defence that would almost certainly see right-back Cesar Azpilicueta handed his full league debut, with Ashley Cole returning from injury on the opposite flank.
Some would argue any defence without the erratic Luiz would be an improvement but it is the absence of Terry that has been more cause for concern.
"He's obviously been an influential player for us, for sure, and a fantastic defender," Di Matteo said.
"When he plays, he's always played very well for us.
"The other players have done a fantastic job by coming in and playing when they've been in the team but, certainly, JT is a player that we miss."
Di Matteo added: "The last few games, we've conceded a few more goals than at the start of the season.
"Generally, it's been down probably to a few individual mistakes.
"But I think our track record is very good and, surely, will continue to be."
If not, Chelsea can surely forget about staying top of the Premier League and reaching the Champions League knockout stages.
"We have to improve but I don't think it's just as simple as that," Di Matteo said.
"You look at other teams and they're conceding goals, so we certainly have to improve, from the last few games, our defensive organisation."
It is not just at the back where Chelsea have problems at present.
Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge both look well short of being the kind of ruthless finisher that would ease the pressure on the defence, leaving them to rely more and more on their much-vaunted trio of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Mata's goals and assists, in particular, have been absolutely vital, so the news he would almost certainly join Luiz on the sidelines was another blow.
"A few others have a few niggling injuries as well, so we'll have to see," Di Matteo added.
Michael Laudrup will not be tempted to leave top scorer Michu out of his side, despite knowing a booking would see the Spaniard miss a clash with Southampton the Swansea boss believes is more important.
Michu has quickly become a cult hero among the Liberty Stadium faithful after scoring seven goals in just 11 appearances since arriving from Rayo Vallecano in a #2.5million deal in the summer.
The midfielder's goalscoring prowess has seen him start the last three games up front, but while his goal count has been a positive, his yellow card tally of four is potentially a headache for his manager.
With Swansea's target once again being Premier League survival, Laudrup knows it is the games against sides in the lower half of the table that will go a long way to deciding the Welsh club's destiny.
But the Dane does not plan to leave Michu out against the embattled Blues, although he has spoken to the player about the matter.
Laudrup said: "He is a very important player, he is our top scorer, his movement is good and he is making assists. I have spoken to him about it and I said `I want you to play'.
"The fifth booking; when it comes it comes. He is tall and with his long legs there may be a tackle where he will think he can get the ball and may give away a foul and get a yellow, that happens.
"But I will say not to do anything silly, don't get booked for saying anything to the referee or anything like that. But it can come at any time.
"He wants to play against Chelsea and he wants to play against Southampton so when it comes it comes."
But Laudrup believes any points picked up against Chelsea will be a bonus, compared with the importance of denying Southampton a result next weekend.
He said: "We are not competing with Chelsea in the table, to win at Southampton would mean a lot as it would be three extra points for us and none for them.
"I always prefer to beat the teams we are fighting directly with in the table. What we do against the big clubs is a bonus."
Laudrup will give defender Chico Flores as much time as possible to prove his fitness. The Spaniard picked up a dead leg in the Capital One Cup victory at Liverpool, with Garry Monk or Alan Tate set to deputise should he be unavailable.