Chelsea ARE a world football power, insists Di Matteo
Published 12:17 04/04/12 By MirrorFootball
Roberto Di Matteo has insisted Chelsea are already a global superpower, regardless of whether they win the Champions League.
Europe's premier club competition has become something of a Holy Grail for the Blues, who have been closer than anyone to claiming the trophy without actually doing so since Roman Abramovich bought the club.
They will reach their sixth semi-final in nine seasons if they avoid defeat against Benfica tonight, but with all-conquering Barcelona up next - never mind a potential final against Real Madrid or Bayern Munich - they have never faced a taller order.
Caretaker manager Di Matteo, who has transformed Chelsea's fortunes since being placed in charge, claimed their domestic trophy haul during the Abramovich era qualified them to sit at Europe's top table.
"If you look at the last decade of this club, it's become a domestic and international force," he said.
"It's been always fighting for domestic trophies and titles, and internationally.
"It's never quite happened internationally, but I don't think that would take any shine off this club."
Midfielder Ramires agreed, saying Chelsea were spoken about in his native Brazil in the same breath as Barca or Real.
"In Brazil, when they talk about Chelsea, they do talk about them being in the same level and class as Barcelona and Real," he said.
"There may be a weight because they haven't won the Champions League so far, but that doesn't detract from the reality that it's a great club."
Chelsea winning the Champions League looked impossible before Andre Villas-Boas was sacked as manager a month ago.
But Di Matteo has masterminded such a turnaround in fortunes that only a fool would write them off, especially with them having caused Barca so many problems in the past.
Di Matteo accepted the Blues' revival had been aided by the fact that - as a caretaker - he was not facing the threat of the sack, which was hanging over Villas-Boas for most of his reign.
"I think, stability helps every player and every club," Di Matteo said.
"But the players know that they have to perform and they have a responsibility towards themselves and the club.
"You just have to try and get the best out of them. That's the way it is."
Di Matteo warned his players that complacency was a "danger" going into tonight's game, with only two clubs having ever lost a Champions League tie after winning the first leg away from home.
Benfica midfielder Bruno Cesar claimed his side were ready to pounce on any weaknesses this evening.
The Brazil international said: "Chelsea will feel confident after winning that first game. But we as a team stayed focused, very calm.
"We respect Chelsea a great deal, but that won't stop us going out and doing our best. We're positive we can go out and beat them.
"It's not impossible.
"We know they have a lot of quality amongst their players and the team but, then again, so do we."