'Crucial' Terry will be missed against City, admits Di Matteo
Published 14:22 20/03/12 By Martin Lipton
Skipper John Terry today dealt Chelsea a hammer-blow as it was confirmed he will miss tomorrow's crunch trip to Manchester City.
Blues captain Terry returned just two weeks after knee surgery for the wins over Stoke and Napoli that re-ignited Chelsea's season.
But the calf strain which forced his extra-time substitution last Wednesday and ruled him out of the FA Cup win over Leicester has not healed and means Terry will not travel to Manchester.
Being without the linchpin of his defence is a major blow for boss Roberto Di Matteo, especially with top four rivals Spurs and Arsenal both having opportunities to take advantage if City can extend their 100 per cent home run to 15 games this season and a Premier League record of 20 matches if they win.
Di Matteo said: "It's still a bit early for John.
"He did very well to come back in such a short period of time and we were lucky he came back so early.
"John is a crucial member of our team and a leader on the pitch so it's better when he is available but I expect him to be okay for game with Tottenham at the weekend.
"I have to manage everybody, not just one player. The run of games we face will be very demanding on the team so I have to manage that."
Di Matteo seems likely to opt for a central defensive duo of Branislav Ivanovic and Davi Luiz, while Frank Lampard will return in the middle of the park.
His big call, though, is over who he selects to lead the line between Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres after the Spaniard broke his five-month goal drought with that double against Leicester.
Asked whether a fit and flying Tores could be the key element for Chelsea over the next 10 weeks, Di Matteo replied: "I believe a confident team can be the difference between now and end of season.
"Every individual player has to put in effort for the team. If individuals are more confident they will make the team stronger.
"Fernando was fine before the weekend. He was just getting on normally with his work and his football but of course he is happy at the moment.
"I'm not surprised confidence is so big a factor because they are human beings before are professional footballers.
"They need to feel they can express their quality on the pitch. That's what matters most. I'm glad that we seem to be able to get players to play at best level and hopefully it's going to go on like this."
When the game was initially scheduled for this weekend, Chelsea were still in crisis mode, reeling from the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, while City were top of the league.
Two weeks on, City are four points adrift of Manchester United with the Blues having won four on the bounce and Di Matteo agreed: "We're in good shape and good spirits.
"That's what matters most. It means we will go to Manchester in good shape and form. We will be looking after ourselves rather than thinking about them. Hopefully we can play a good game and get the points for us."