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Friday, October 5, 2012
Chelsea wary of tiring Fernando Torres

ESPN.com news services

Roberto Di Matteo said Friday that Fernando Torres may be at risk of burnout as the Chelsea boss prepares to ask the striker to lead the line for the Blues on Saturday.

Torres looks set to maintain his record of starting every one of the European champions' games this season when they take on Norwich in the Barclays Premier League.

The match is Chelsea's seventh in just 21 days, a punishing schedule that has seen Di Matteo take every opportunity to rotate his squad.

He almost certainly would have rested Torres during the past three weeks but for an injury to Daniel Sturridge, who is the club's only other recognized senior striker.

And Di Matteo admitted it was something he might need to address after Torres returns from the upcoming international break.

"It's our seventh game tomorrow in 21 days and he's in good shape, he's very fit," Di Matteo said when asked if burnout was a concern. "But, certainly, it's something we have to look at."

Sturridge has missed the last five matches with a hamstring injury, and Chelsea will once again be without him for Saturday's game against Norwich. He is expected to be fit after the international break.

The benefits of players being given time off have been laid bare by Juan Mata's scintillating form since his return from a fortnight off.

The winger's holiday included the last international break, with Spain agreeing not to pick him at the time.

He was also left out of his country's squad Friday for this month's World Cup qualifying doubleheader against Belarus and France, but there was no such respite for Torres, with Di Matteo confirming a similar request was "not on the agenda at the moment."

Other players who feature at the top of the minutes-played list for Chelsea this season are Ashley Cole, David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic.

"Every player's different," Di Matteo said. "With Mata, it was because of the busy schedule he's had over the summer. Some of the other players have had a rest because they were not involved the Euros or after the Euros. That's why I need to look at every individual as a player and decide. But, at the moment, there are no breaks for anyone on the agenda."

Di Matteo was delighted with Mata's response to his own break, which has seen him rack up four goals and four assists in his past four games.

"It was just common sense to give him a break and the way he's performing suggests that it was very welcome by his body and mind," Di Matteo added. "Juan Mata is a very intelligent man and I talked to him about this idea, and he bought into it and he saw the benefits of it. Juan has really raised the bar again after this break. But if you look at how he played last season, he had a fantastic first season in the English Premier League."

That saw Mata crowned Chelsea's Player of the Year and asked if he could top his performances from last term, Di Matteo added: "I hope so."

Chelsea head into the weekend three points clear at the top of the table but Di Matteo played down the psychological impact maintaining or extending that gap could have on their rivals.

"It's too early," he said. "We're only six games into the league. There are so many more games to play, so I think it's too early to give a judgement on the table now."

Di Matteo was more concerned about his own side and ensuring they kept they avoided a repeat of their last performance before an international break, their 4-1 UEFA Super Cup thrashing by Atletico Madrid.

"It's a fact that every time you play in the league after a Champions League game, you need to mentally focus on that again," he said. "There's an international break coming up as well and the last game before an international break for us was not good. It's the mental aspect of it. Complacency might come into it but it's more focusing back into the league."




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