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Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Di Matteo: Chelsea must start afresh

ESPN staff

Roberto Di Matteo has urged his players to move on from their Champions League triumph and focus on getting off to a strong start to this year's competition against Juventus.

Di Matteo took the helm at Stamford Bridge towards the end of the 2011-12 season and turned the fortunes of the club around in dramatic fashion, culminating in their maiden European Cup triumph in Munich.

But the Italian has no interest in reliving past glories, particularly when the defence of their crown begins against such a tricky opponent.

"When you're in a big club like Chelsea the pressure is always on to win more trophies and have more success," Di Matteo said. "I think everybody was pleased to finally take the trophy home to Stamford Bridge, but that's the past now and we have to look forward."

Juventus may not have played in the Champions League in almost three years, but their pedigree in the competition and the season-long unbeaten run that landed last year's Scudetto marks them out as the Blues' standout rivals in Group E, which also features Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Nordsjaelland.

"They're [Juventus] a very strong team," Di Matteo said. "They have a fantastic unbeaten run and they have some quality within their team, some young dynamic players, and it's probably one of the most difficult teams we could have been drawn against in this Champions League.

"We have three champions in our group, the Danish champions and the Ukrainian champions so it's going to be a difficult group for us.

"It's not just them, there are other teams who have joined the Champions League this season who are very strong and it's a very competitive Champions League this season, even probably stronger and more difficult than last year."

Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns ahead of Tuesday's match, giving Di Matteo the perfect preparations as he takes charge of his first full campaign in the Champions League, not that his half-season with the club has convinced him he has the magic touch.

"I think they said the same about many other managers who won it before," Di Matteo said. "I think we worked very hard and we prepared ourselves very well against our opposition, and it can't just be that.

"You might need and you will need a portion of luck during a competition like this but every team needs it to be able to achieve the final target. That's a minor part of it."

John Obi Mikel was alongside Di Matteo for Tuesday's press conference and said Chelsea were "kind of lucky" to win the Champions League last season but underlined his confidence that they could retain their crown.

One pundit, former Liverpool player Graeme Souness, said of Chelsea's triumph: "Nobody in the history of football has ever had that much luck.''

But Mikel, who was crucial to their success after playing every minute from the quarter-finals onwards, said: "When people say that, sometimes it's actually not true. I think we worked very hard for what we achieved last season.

"But, at the same time, you need luck in everything you do. 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.

"So, hopefully this season, we can play good football and win games. And hopefully, we can go very, very far in this tournament - hopefully get to the final again.''

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