Di Matteo denies Chelsea will mug off Cup semi
Published 21:31 13/04/12 By Martin Lipton
Roberto Di Matteo has annointed his Wembley rival Harry Redknapp as the right man to take over as England manager.
Tottenham boss Redknapp, whose men face Di Matteo's Chelsea in the FA Cup semis on Sunday, has taken a vow of silence over the national vacancy for the past six weeks, despite Euro 2012 looming.
But interim Chelsea gaffer Di Matteo believes that not only is Spurs' leader the ideal choice for England, he would also be the popular choice among the England lads in the Stamford Bridge dressing room.
The Italian said: “Harry is a great manager. He’s been in the football industry for so many years, and has built a nice team at Spurs.
“Harry looks like he’s going to be the new England manager and I think he fully deserves the chance.
“I’m sure people will get the chance to ask my England players if they’d like him as manager. A lot of them know him very well and I think the general consensus is that the players, in general, all like him.”
Di Matteo’s comments may be seen as an attempt to remind Spurs of the likely exit of Redknapp, with the speculation over his possible departiure being pin-pointed by many as the cause of Tottenham’s recent blip.
Redknapp has dismissively denied a causal link, insisting players are not actually that bothered about who their manager is.
And Di Matteo agreed: “At the end of the day, players are professional and just get on with it, whoever the manager is.
“Maybe some do care, others don’t. Generally, they’re professional and do a job with the manager who has been appointed by the club.”
But asked about Tottenham’s form, the Italian conceded: “I don’t have any theories why it has happened - but it’s welcomed by us!
“We’ve made up a lot of points on Spurs, and will continue to try and do that so we can finish above them at the end of the season.”
Di Matteo, who criticised the “lack of consistency” on the part of the FA as he faced up to being without Branislav Ivanovic, who starts a three-game ban after being retrospectively been found guilty of violent conduct for Saturday’s clash with Wigan midfielder Shaun Maloney, is boosted by the return of Ashley Cole.
The England left-back has missed two games with an ankle injury but with deputy Ryan Bertrand likely to miss out with a calf problem, Cole is unlikely to be saved for the midweek Champions League clash with Barcelona.
Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard, Daniel Sturridge and Gary Cahill may get Wembley run-outs, with Paulo Ferreira at right-back, as Di Matteo juggles his options.
But the Italian, who has four wins and three draws in seven career games as a player and manager against Spurs, insisted he is not prepared to sacrifice the FA Cup at the expense of Roman Abramovich’s “Holy Grail”.
“Barcelona will not be a factor,” said Di Matteo, who revealed his players have been practising penalties ahead of a possible Wembley shoot-out. “This is a massive game for the players, the team and for the club, and for our supporters. A big, big game for us.
“Nobody will have Barcelona at the back of their minds. We are going to be focused on the FA Cup, to try to reach the final.
“I’m not a gambler. I said that after the Benfica first leg. If I make a change to win the game, it’s not because I’m gambling. I’m doing it because I think it’s the right move.
“Whatever it takes for us to reach the final, we will do. We’re not going to throw anything away, absolutely not.
“As a manager, you’re judged by your results. A good result will be very good for the players and the team, everyone involved. After that, we’ll take on the next challenge. A positive result will be very good for us.
“The FA Cup means a lot to Chelsea and we have a good history in it.
"It’s a domestic trophy, and a tradition-rich trophy, well known all over the world. The FA Cup. It’s prestigious to be able to win it.”