Bertrand backed to shine
Ryan Bertrand is set be thrown in at the deep end for Chelsea again on Wednesday as he braces himself to fill the void left by Ashley Cole for both club and country.
- Related Content
19. Ryan Bertrand
Roberto Di Matteo has all but confirmed Bertrand would start the Blues' "must-win" Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk after admitting Cole would miss the game through injury.
And Bertrand could yet find himself called upon once more by England boss Roy Hodgson, who is set to name his squad on Thursday ahead of next Wednesday's friendly with Sweden.
Bertrand, 23, shot to fame after becoming the first player to make his Champions League debut in the final itself when he was a shock starter in Chelsea's sensational triumph over Bayern Munich.
He was picked to provide cover for Cole in midfield but Wednesday will see him start in his preferred position of left-back, by far his biggest game ever in the role.
And he will do so after a ringing endorsement from manager Di Matteo, who said: "Ryan has always performed very well for us every time he's played.
"He's got that little bit of experience that helps and I have full confidence in him that he'll play a great game."
Nevertheless, the loss of Cole - still regarded by many as the best left-back in the world - for a match Di Matteo has branded Chelsea's biggest since the Champions League final was a blow.
Cole is also in danger of being made to wait again for his 100th England cap.
Injury prevented the 31-year-old reaching the landmark in their opening World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, while his Twitter attack on the Football Association verdict in the John Terry racism scandal arguably played a part in him being rested for last month's match with San Marino.
Both he and Steven Gerrard earned their 99th caps in Poland the following week but it could now be February's glamour friendly with Brazil before Cole reaches three figures.
Frank Lampard also looks certain to miss the Sweden game as well as Wednesday's match, which heralds the return of John Terry after the completion of his domestic four-match racism ban.
The European champions have shipped a whopping 10 goals in his absence and right-back Branislav Ivanovic said: "It is important to see him on the pitch to give support and the control of the game, and also the motivation for the players.
"He's very important for our organisation and for our defensive line. We expect also a lot of difficulty in the game coming up, so every player is very important."
Shakhtar boss Mircea Lucescu warned he was ready to mastermind another shock victory at Stamford Bridge.
Lucescu was the last manager to win a group game at the home of the Blues when Besiktas triumphed there in 2003.
And he had no fear about a ground that has since become a fortress in Europe's premier club competition.
"I prepare my players knowing very well that absolutely all the teams can be beaten, even Chelsea at home," said Lucescu, who oversaw a 2-1 win over Chelsea in Donetsk two weeks ago.