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Chelsea put Sturridge’s health first

July 5, 2012

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• Roberto Di Matteo hails great opportunity for Olympic players
• “We will be co-ordinating with Stuart Pearce about Daniel’

Anxiety does not have a close season. Instead of basking in the role of Champions Leagu e winner, the Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo must worry about the condition of some important players, particularly since Daniel Sturridge is being treated for viral meningitis. The striker will also have to cope with a heavy workload after being named in the Team GB squad for the Olympics.

“The most important aspect is his health,” said Di Matteo. “Once he is 100% healthy then we will be co-ordinating with Stuart Pearce to see if he can join the Olympic team. Daniel and Ryan [Bertrand] have been called up and it’s a great opportunity for the players to be involved with the Olympic team.”

Di Matteo has a calm that deepened by fulfilment after the victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. “As a manager you would like to have them with you pre-season,” he said of the absentees, “but they will still be at the Olympic Games and players will want to be involved with it.

“For the Spanish team we have Oriol Romeu and Juan Mata called up. It’s an opportunity that the players don’t want to lose out on. There are going to be many clubs in the same situation as us.” The triumphs of Spain, who have now taken three major trophies in succession, have entailed a great workload.

“It depends when they go out or whether they go through to the end,” Di Matteo said of the Olympics. “There’s always this dilemma with national teams. There’s a friendly date in August already [when England will play Italy in Berne on the 15th] so we have to work around that.” The major clubs can only make minor concessions, although Chelsea players who took part in Euro 2012 will not return until the pre-season trip to the United States.

In general, Di Matteo is at ease although it took a while to conclude the two-year contract Abramovich has now given him, even if it is thought to have a break clause after the first season. “We were always in touch and we had a few meetings,” he said “I was pretty relaxed about it. I know the process s ometimes takes a bit of time. It’s such an important decision for a club.”

The manager may well have more to offer now. Defence was the key in both the semi-finals and final of last season’s Champions League, but Di Matteo is entitled to argue that opponents such as Barcelona and Bayern warranted caution that has not been typical of his approach.

“If you judge the work on [those] three games of the 21 in which I was involved [after Villas-Boas],” he said, “you forget the other games – 4-2 against Napoli, 5-1 against Spurs – where the team expressed the attacking potential. On average we scored two goals a game. My teams usually create chances and score goals.

“It’s unjustified to focus on just three games [against Barcelona and Bayern] and target us for that. We had some players who were out of the final and others who were injured. As for the other games, with Barcelona, I have not seen many teams playing expansively against them.”

Chelsea, with the signing of the Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard, must wish to develop a more luxurious style. The Champions League trophy is more likely to represent the opening of a new phase in the club’s history than a conclusion to Abramovich’s ambitions. Read More

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