DI MATTEO: DERBY TO EXCITE
It is one of the biggest games of the season and Chelsea are able to call upon our two most experienced players for what Roberto Di Matteo believes is a contest against genuine title challengers…
Di Matteo is one player short of a full squad going into the weekend local derby in north London.
Daniel Sturridge has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury and has not recovered in time, but the good news is Frank Lampard is over the minor ankle problem that that kept him out of the midweek win over Wolves.
There are no other injury concerns. John Terry trained with the rest of the squad on Friday morning.
'He trained well today, as hard as always,' reported Di Matteo. 'He has only missed a couple of days training and he was in yesterday afternoon. I have spoken to him as I speak to all my players regularly, and he is going to be available.'
On Terry's focus
In the light of being found guilty of an FA charge yesterday, questions about whether the Chelsea captain will be in the right frame of mind for a huge London derby on an away ground are inevitable, but Di Matteo is not concerned that Terry's play may be affected by the decision or any reaction he receives at Arsenal.
'John is a professional player and he is a senior player,' said the manager.
'He has played many, many games and he has all the experience in the world to be able to deal with a big game. He has played difficult games under different circumstances and environments before and if selected, I don't think there will be a problem.'
Terry announced his retirement from international football on Sunday and Di Matteo spoke to the player prior to that decision too. The Italian is not commentating on what is a non-Chelsea matter other than to say:
'I know that John loved playing for England, it was his childhood dream and it was a very difficult decision for him to take. It certainly increases the chance to play for a little longer when you don't play international football.'
On facing Arsenal
The Gunners' boss Arsene Wenger has this week admitted his side won't miss playing against Didier Drogba, so often their nemesis, but there have not only been changes at Chelsea with Robin van Persie having left Arsenal in the summer.
Di Matteo is expecting the new-look sides to do justice to this fixture's recent past.
'It is a big game every time Arsenal and Chelsea play each other. It is two teams in good form and I think it is going to be an exciting game, so I am looking forward to it.
'We are in good shape, good form and the spirit is good. I think we have a very good team that is capable of beating Arsenal. Didier Drogba has been a fantastic player for many years for this club but we have to move on.'
Fernando Torres is the player who will take the attack to Arsenal this time. One of our opponents' three summer signings is a Spaniard too. Di Matteo believes Santi Cazorla will need careful watching tomorrow.
'He is a very exciting player to watch and has certainly made an impact in Arsenal's team. They have very good players already but he has probably been a highlight so far.
'I said at the start that Arsenal are going to be challenging for the league and I am not sure anybody believed me, but that is the way I saw it so I haven't changed my mind.
'They have signed some very good players and they have been playing the same kind of football for many years and I think they are up there with the other teams.'