The absence of key English players is the reason for Chelsea's poor form, says Ray Wilkins
Injuries to key English players - not Di Matteo - is the reason for Chelsea's form, says Ray Wilkins.
Last Updated: 21/11/12 12:07pm
The Blues' hopes of qualifying for the knock out stage of the Champions League now hang in the balance. They must now rely on Shakhtar Donetsk defeating Juventus in Ukraine and beat Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge to progress.
The defeat means Chelsea have won just twice in their last eight games and Di Matteo has paid the price for that run, despite leading the club to their first Champions League title last season.
Last night former Blues assistant boss Wilkins had urged Chelsea to stand by Di Matteo and said Chelsea's poor run is down to injuries affecting their English trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
"What's going on with Chelsea? The English factor, is what's going on," he told Sky Sports.
"Ashley Cole came back against Juventus to play for his first game in a long period, Frank Lampard's been out for a long time and John Terry's been out, come back, and now he's out for another period.
"I've said it all along, when these three guys retire Chelsea have got to start finding players to replace them because they are so influential, not only on the football pitch but in the dressing room as well.
"Those players haven't been playing and the results haven't been going for them."
Former Chelsea boss Glenn Hoddle agreed, pointing out the absence of those players coincided with the Blues' dip in form after a promising start to the 2012/13 campaign.
"At the start of the season everyone was saying how strong they looked, playing a new system of technical football with an organised defence," he said.
"Suddenly they lost those players and they look a different side."
Di Matteo was criticised for his team selection in the crucial encounter with the Italian giants. The former West Brom and MK Dons boss opted to leave Fernando Torres on the bench and play without a recognised striker, along with five at the back.
But Hoddle defended the Italian and said, despite the poor result, he wasn't far away from pulling off a tactical masterstroke.
"Managers make tough decisions," he said.
"He set his team up to win on the break, with five at the back to deal with Juventus, because he knows they're going to come at Chelsea. And actually he was fractions away from achieving that.
"I prefer playing a centre forward because you need a focal point away from home, you need to get up the pitch and someone has got to hold the ball up, but he set it up and said 'we're going to nick this on the break' and, to be fair, they had three great opportunities to do that.
"He was fractions away from being a hero and a genius."