Champions League

Chelsea not just lucky - coach

2012-09-18 21:01
Roberto Di Matteo (File)

London - Roberto Di Matteo insists Chelsea don't deserve to be remembered as lucky winners of the Champions League.

Four months after being crowned kings of Europe for the first time, Chelsea start the defence of their title against Italian champions Juventus at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

But rather than focus on the challenges Chelsea face as they seek to become the first club to win the tournament in successive seasons during the Champions League era, Blues boss Di Matteo felt obliged to defend his team from claims they are the luckiest side ever to win the trophy.

After fighting back from a 3-1 first leg deficit to defeat Napoli in the second round, Chelsea edged past Benfica in the quarter-finals and then shocked Barcelona in the last four.

It was that victory over Barca which prompted the first jibes about lucky Chelsea as the Blues survived the dismissal of John Terry and a missed penalty from Lionel Messi to go through.

When Didier Drogba headed a late equaliser to force extra-time in the final against Bayern Munich and then converted the winning penalty in the shoot-out, the critics of Chelsea's defensive style again insisted luck had been the defining factor in the team's success.

But Di Matteo, who earned the manager's job on a permanent basis on the back of Chelsea's fairytale run, is adamant the triumph was a reward for the desire and discipline shown by his players.

"They said the same about many other managers when they won," Di Matteo said at Tuesday's pre-match press conference.

"You need to deserve everything you get, and I think we worked very hard for it. We prepared ourselves very well against our opposition.

"It can't just be that (luck). You might need, and you will need, a portion of luck during a competition like this.

"But every team has it to be able to achieve the final target to win it. Luck is a minor part of it."

However, Chelsea's Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel took the opposite view to his manager and conceded his team had enjoyed a slice or two of good fortune en route to their victory in Munich.

"We worked very hard for what we achieved last season. But, at the same time, you need luck in everything you do," Mikel said.

"So, yeah, we were kind of lucky but, this season, it's a different story altogether.

"We brought in new players that are going to help us in this campaign. And hopefully we can go far in this tournament and get to the final again."

With one European title secured, Chelsea's players are hungry for more according to Mikel, who believes Di Matteo's pre-season spending spree, which saw Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta arrive in west London, was a clear statement of intent to their rivals for the trophy.

"You're going to hear that Real Madrid and Barcelona are the favourites," he said. "But I think that's what happened last season when we played Barcelona.

"I think everyone wrote us off even before the game, but we showed how much the Champions League meant to us and how much we wanted to win it.

"We're still hungry, there are still players in that dressing room that still want to retain this trophy.

"We want to build on it, we don't want to stop, and hopefully we can build on it this season, and tomorrow is the start of it.

"So we have to make sure that we go out there and prove ourselves and make sure we want to go far in this tournament."

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Liverpool v Ludogorets Razgrad, Anfield 20:45
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Chelsea v FC Schalke 04, Stamford Bridge 20:45
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