Old guard thrill Blues boss

Di Matteo says Chelsea veterans have answered critics

Roberto Di Matteo: Proud of his team

Loading Market ...

Football Betting

Up To £30 Free Matched Bet

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has backed the club's veteran players after the 1-0 UEFA Champions League semi-final first-leg victory over Barcelona.

Di Matteo has kept faith in the so-called Chelsea old guard with 34-year-old Didier Drogba repaying the boss' loyalty with the winner at Stamford Bridge.

And the Italian believes he can continue to get the best out of Drogba and co.

"In the past, a lot of people have had the opinion that our boys were over the line and too old to play at this level," he said.

"It was not just Didier, but a lot of players in our squad, that they said couldn't play two games in such a short period of time.

"They gave their answer on the pitch tonight."

Barca coach Pep Guardiola might have labelled the Blues as favourites to make it to the Munich final but Di Matteo is too astute to be duped by that, insisting nothing can be taken for granted.

"We are facing a lot of tests at the moment," he said. "I am very pleased with this result but it is only half-time.

"Nothing has been decided yet and we need to play another game like this one if we are going to get through.

"Sometimes it feels like Barcelona have 20 players. We watched Barcelona against AC Milan and Real Madrid, top European clubs, and they did exactly the same to them.

"They have a unique style of play, with quality players. They are the only team in the world who can do that."

Di Matteo also singled out Gary Cahill for special praise after the transfer window arrival from Bolton responded to the opportunity created by David Luiz's hamstring injury in magnificent fashion, helping to keep a much-hyped Barca attack at bay.

"It was a bit of a baptism for Gary," he said. "He has not played much in the Champions League and it was a difficult game.

"But I am very pleased that he played so well, as did the whole back four."

Who will contest the Champions League final?

  • Chelsea and Real Madrid
  • Chelsea and Bayern Munich
  • Bayern Munich and Barcelona
  • Real Madrid and Barcelona