• Champions League

Di Matteo backs Chelsea leader Terry

ESPN staff
October 23, 2012
John Terry will return as Chelsea captain this evening © Getty Images

Roberto Di Matteo has backed John Terry to continue as Chelsea's "leader" and says he has never had any issue about picking the controversial defender.

After missing the 4-2 Premier League win against Tottenham through suspension, Terry is expected to return to the heart of Chelsea's defence for the Champions League tie with Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night.

And as part of a UEFA initiative he will don a 'Unite Against Racism' armband for the game, leading his manager to underline that he is only concerned by Terry's performance as a captain on the field, not his troubles off it.

"He has realised that he used language that was inappropriate and he has apologised for that and has certainly learned from that issue," Di Matteo said. "And with good performances and good behaviour in the future he should still be looked upon as the leader for our club.

"I've never been concerned about picking him. He's been able to focus on the games and that's what the players love to do, playing football and it's good for them that they can focus on that.

"What is common for players is that, even if they have family problems or some kind of issues outside in their private life, they tend to be able to focus on the football because it kind of just helps them."

With games coming thick and fast in all competitions Di Matteo has had no time to reflect on Chelsea's fine start to the season which has seen them open up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League and only suffer one defeat in all competitions, against Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup.

The form has been a continuation from last season's resurgence under the Italian which saw Chelsea win the Champions League and FA Cup after he replaced Andre Villas-Boas at Stamford Bridge.

"I've had a good baptism, I have to say, from the day I took over last season," Di Matteo said. "You just deal with the pressure. We don't get time to enjoy anything, you know. After the win on Saturday, by 10 o'clock in the evening, you're thinking already about Shakhtar.

"And 7-7.30 Sunday morning, you're back in the office. That's maybe the only downfall. You can't even take in victories like that and the performance. You're switching straight on to the next game."

As such Di Matteo has not yet turned his attention to the important Premier League meeting with Manchester United on Sunday, a test which could strengthen their grip at the league's summit or expose deficiencies which their rivals hope to capitalise on.

"I won't think about Manchester United, only this game," Di Matteo said. "We've got to focus on it, try to win the game and that's a big, big boost for our campaign in the Champions League."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.