Di Matteo: No time off for Terry
Roberto Di Matteo insists he has no plans to give John Terry a complete break from football while he serves his four-match ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.
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Terry watched Chelsea beat Tottenham 4-2 from the stands as he began the suspension that was imposed by the Football Association (FA) for his comments towards Ferdinand last October.
The 31-year-old has retained the Chelsea captaincy despite the FA's sanction, and he looks set to lead the Blues out in their Champions League group clash in Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night.
Terry could be forgiven for wanting to take a break after such a tumultuous year, but when asked whether he had ever considered such an option, Di Matteo's response was blunt, and to the point.
"No," said the Italian, who now hopes the club can move on from the matter.
"It has been a delicate issue and we are going to continue working with the authorities to eradicate discrimination.
"The board has made the final decision (to keep Terry as captain) and we can focus just on our football while keeping in mind that we have responsibilities to keep working towards a more respectful world."
One player who Di Matteo did give a recent break to is Juan Mata.
The decision has proven to be a wise one, with the Spaniard taking his goal tally to six in five after bagging a quick-fire brace to swing the game in Chelsea's favour.
Di Matteo gave Mata two weeks off after his exertions with Spain at the European Championship and Olympics and the Italian is delighted that the move has paid off.
"He played in the Euros and the Olympic Games, so it was of vital importance that we gave him a break, mentally and physically," Di Matteo said.
"It was a good decision from the way he is playing. This last international break, when he wasn't selected, has given him another little breather."
To those who have watched Mata tear up the Barclays Premier League in recent weeks, his latest opportunity to rest must have come as something of a shock.
It is hardly a secret that Spain are blessed with a wealth of talent in midfield, but Mata can count himself mightily unlucky not to have received a call-up to La Roja's most recent World Cup qualifier against Belarus.
Mata himself appears unconcerned about the snub and insists his mind is totally dedicated to the task in hand at Chelsea.
"I don't know (whether anyone was watching from Spain). I just try to improve with every Chelsea game I play," Mata said.
"I just wanted to do my best for my team and in this moment I am feeling really well.
"I had another chance for a goal but Fernando (Torres) was in a better position than me to score.
"But the most important thing for me was victory. Before the game we wanted to stay top of the league and we are still there."
Gary Cahill put the Blues ahead with a powerful volley before William Gallas and Jermain Defoe turned the game on its head just after the break.
The match slipped away from the grasp of former Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas half-way through the second period, however, when Mata latched on to Gallas' poor clearance before making it 2-2 and then slipping past the Frenchman to rifle home Chelsea's third.
It was Mata's partnership with Oscar and Hazard again which caused the most destruction and Di Matteo has been extremely happy with how quickly the latter pair have settled in to English football following their respective arrivals from Lille and Internacional.
"We have been lucky with the way the players we signed have settled in to the club quickly and into the Premier League," Di Matteo said.
"That's thanks to the players who were already here, particularly Oscar, as the Spanish and Portuguese players have helped him integrate quicker."
Di Matteo was quick to play down talk of winning the Barclays Premier League despite yet another impressive win, adding: "There has been a 10-12 points advantage that have been given up by teams (before).
"Our December schedule is crazy, so we have to wait to see where we stand then."