Di Matteo hails Chelsea's fighting spirit

Eyes upbeat end to troubled season

Chelsea's interim manager Roberto Di Matteo believes his team are gaining momentum at just the right time as they enter a pivotal period in their season.

The Blues' 4-2 win at Aston Villa on Saturday was their sixth victory in eight matches since Di Matteo took over from Andre Villas-Boas.

They gave up a two-goal lead within the space of three minutes late on at Villa Park but showed impressive spirit to hit back and take the points.

Chelsea are now two points behind fourth placed Tottenham, who host Swansea on Sunday, have an FA Cup semi-final against Spurs to look forward to and hold a 1-0 lead over Benfica ahead of the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.

Di Matteo, who was Villas-Boas' assistant, took over from a far from promising position, but the Italian is pleased with the way his side have picked up their form and he believes they can enjoy a successful end to a troubled campaign.

"We knew our schedule was difficult but for us it's just good that we keep this positive momentum and spirit. Every game and win helps us continue and believe," he said.

"After they drew level we could have capitulated but you saw the spirit and desire to win the game and reacted in a positive way.

"Every game is so huge because of the situation we're in, so that's all we're concentrating on."

However, Di Matteo admits he has fitness concerns over Didier Drogba and David Luiz ahead of Benfica's midweek visit to Stamford Bridge.

Drogba was absent from the squad at Villa Park and Luiz, who has been struggling with an ankle injury, limped off just before half-time.

Di Matteo is still unsure whether the pair will be available to face the Portuguese side.

"David has a problem with his ankle at the moment. We will have to assess how he is and I don't know about Wednesday," Luiz said.

"Didier is another one we will have to assess over the next 48 hours. He got a knock on his foot in training and couldn't make it for Villa."

Di Matteo has constantly defended Fernando Torres, who has struggled for goals since joining in a £50 million deal from Liverpool in January 2011.

And the Spaniard responded by scoring his first Premier League goal since September to round off Chelsea's win.

"He's been providing goals for his team-mates and now he's scored as well," Di Matteo added.

Chelsea surged into a strong early advantage at Villa Park thanks to goals at the start of each half from Daniel Sturridge and Branislav Ivanovic.

But James Collins and Eric Lichaj pulled Villa level in the space of three minutes late on, only for Ivanovic to score Chelsea's third before Torres broke away to make it four.

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish revealed that captain Stiliyan Petrov, who has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia, visited the dressing room before the match.

The Bulgarian midfielder, 32, will start treatment for the illness at a London hospital on Monday and McLeish claimed that his influence is still with the team.

"He was in before the game and it was great to see him but his presence inspired a lot of people, especially the crowd and the young players," McLeish said.

"Stan was with all the boys and they weren't quite sure whether to applaud or cry but he shook everyone's hand and everyone embraced him. The support is there throughout football."
 

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