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Chelsea Club Focus - Di Matteo with the chance to succeed where Villas-Boas failed as Benfica wait in the Champions League

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By Grant Payne

Monday 26 March 2012

Roberto Di Matteo has now been in charge for six games since Chelsea’s separation with Andre Villas-Boas and the turnaround has been stark.

Under the leadership of the former manager, the West London club were slumping to defeats away at West Bromwich Albion and both progressing in this year’s Champions League and qualifying for next year’s tournament was in serious doubt. Six games in and former Chelsea favourite Di Matteo has seemingly turned it all around without even needing the help of a transfer window.

The Blues have taken four points from a possible nine in the Premier League but it is in the competitions where silverware is a real possibility that the change has been remarkable, none more-so than the heroic Champions League turnaround at Stamford Bridge that had a hint of Jose Mourinho swagger about it.

Chelsea were seemingly dead and buried from the first leg against Napoli after an abject performance saw their 1-0 lead disappear and end in a 3-1 defeat, a result that many thought was the end of the road for the Blues.

Villas-Boas cut a glum figure on the touchline during that game but came out as bullish as ever saying his side could turn it around. Little did he know that they would have a chance to turn it around in the second leg - but he would not be in the dugout to witness it. Di Matteo recalled the old guard and the mission was simple. Win by three clear goals and put all the recent woes behind you. It was a mission that the Chelsea players went after with vigour rarely seen under the guidance of their former boss.

Having won his first game in charge to progress the Blues to the FA Cup quarter-final, Di Matteo’s next task was to get Chelsea past Leicester City and back to Wembley for the first time since they won the competition against Portsmouth in 2010.

Again the interim Chelsea manager passed with flying colours as the West London side ran out comfortable 5-2 winners at Stamford Bridge. It seemed Di Matteo’s reforming touch knew no bounds as Fernando Torres scored twice, ending a goal drought that had hampered the Spaniard since October.

It has not all been plain-sailing. Despite the double cup success, Chelsea have since been beaten in the Premier League by Manchester City and held to a goalless draw at home to Spurs. But all indications are that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich desires the Champions League more than any other trophy. And if that is truly the will of the owner then Di Matteo remains in with a chance of satisfying his boss’ whims when Chelsea travel to Lisbon to face Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday.

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