Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was surprisingly upbeat ahead of his team's must-win match against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League.
Not that the manager isn't normally upbeat, but given the fact the Blues haven't won an English Premier League match in over a month and were heading towards elimination in the very competition where they triumphed so majestically last year, Di Matteo's confidence was both unexpected and refreshing.
Commenting via The Telegraph, the Blues' boss had this to say prior to kickoff.
I'm not thinking about [my future], I'm preparing the game and the team for tomorrow, and have important decisions to make about that. We are confident we can have a good game and, hopefully, a good result.
They [the players] need to have belief in themselves, and that's the most important aspect. We work together, and, at the moment, we're all in it together and believe we have a good group—a good team—and are pulling together.
We believe we can get a positive result.
However, after watching his side concede three goals to the defending Italian champions and placing themselves in a tough spot for the remainder of the tournament, Di Matteo's confidence had changed to misery; his high-flying spirit struck down by the depressing, somber reality of defeat.
Following the loss, Di Matteo had this to say (per Sky Sports):
I thought this was the team to beat Juventus, but if the result is negative you always face repercussions.
We still have hope because mathematically it is still possible because Shakhtar [Donetsk] can beat Juve [Juventus] at home.
In a big club like this—if you have a few bad results—you are going to be under pressure but you have to live with it. And it's been like that from day one, and it's up to me to pick the players up now.
While the manager does possess hope for the future of his team in the European competition, the truth is that this club is very unlikely to progress through the group-stages and into the final 16 of the tournament.
Even those who are looking through the bluest of spectacles will concede that their path to the knockout rounds is incredibly unlikely.
To progress, Chelsea would need to beat lowly Nordsjaelland at home—which is almost a given—but would be relying on Shakhtar Donetsk to beat the Italian giants in the final round—which is where the problems begin to come in for the West London club.
Shakhtar have been one of the form sides in world football this season, which at first glance, seems to bode well for the Blues, who need the Ukrainian club to dominate their Italian opponents—similar to what they did when the two met earlier in the European competition.
At home, Shakhtar have lost just three domestic matches in their past six seasons (yes, you read that right), and could well be too much for Juventus to handle.
However, keep in mind that the Ukrainian club have already qualified for the knockout rounds; they do not need any points from their match against Juve and have nothing to play for, whereas the Italian giants have everything to play for.
Shakhtar's place in the final 16 is guaranteed, and with a three-month lay off in the Ukrainian Premier League set to take place following their match against the Italian side, they simply will not risk injuring any of their star players ahead of the rest period.
Their starting lineup will not be strong and in contrast, Juventus will do whatever they can over the next two weeks to ensure that their squad is as dominant and as ready as it could be to win one single football match.
Oh, yeah, and they only need to draw.
Their 3-0 demolition of Chelsea means that should they finish on equal points—which is what would happen in Juventus draw and Chelsea win their last match—the Italian champions would still progress through with the better head-to-head record.
The West London club's future in the Champions League is not in their hands but on the boots of Juventus, and after watching the most recent performance of those boots, it seems highly unlikely that their future in the tournament will last anything longer than Matchday 6.
Chelsea will finish third and be put into the round of 32 in the Europa League—a move that could well have some ironic yet frustrating consequences for the Blues, who are simply desperate for some new attacking life in their club.
Even worse news for Chelsea, if they were to go to Europa League knockout round, they wouldn't be able to use Falcao if he signs in Jan.— Joe Tansey (@JTansey90) November 20, 2012
It seems there's a bigger problem taking place at Stamford Bridge than one loss this week and a loss the weekend before in the English Premier League.
It's a problem that is working it's way through the whole club, and could well find some new pores to seep if current performances do not improve soon.
Not once has the defending champion of the UEFA Champions League trophy been eliminated in the group-stages of the tournament. Not until this year, that is.
At least Chelsea are making history.
What have you made of Chelsea's Champions League campaign?
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