Di Matteo feeling the heat
Roberto Di Matteo is feeling the pressure to perform on the eve of Chelsea's Premier League season opener against Wigan.
The Champions League holders now have the weight of expectation on them, having clinched an unlikely maiden European title after an under-par sixth-place finish domestically.
With big-money signings Eden Hazard (32 million pounds) and 21-year-old Brazilian Oscar (25 million) joining the club, Di Matteo, who was appointed as permanent manager in July, knows a repeat of last season won't be acceptable.
"I think expectation levels at Chelsea have always been very high so it (winning the Champions League) might have added a little bit of pressure to it but it was always so high anyway," Di Matteo said.
"It's an ambitious club and we know that we have to try and win trophies and be successful.
"I always felt very responsible for the results - the pressure is always there whether you are appointed permanently or not. When you have to lead a club like this you know it's a pressurised job."
Yet breaking the two Manchester clubs' stranglehold on the top two places won't be easy with Di Matteo hailing champions Manchester City the ones to beat, while he expects United to improve after prizing away star striker Robin Van Persie from Arsenal.
"Personally I still believe that Manchester City are the favourites because they haven't lost any key players, they have showed their strength," he said.
"But certainly (Robin) Van Persie is a good signing for Manchester United."
Chelsea's first opponent Wigan stormed home last season to avoid relegation with seven wins in their last nine games, including the scalps of Liverpool, United, Arsenal and Newcastle.
"It's definitely a difficult fixture (against Wigan)," Di Matteo admitted.
"Last season at the end they were very strong. The (nine) games they were very, very good, we played them at home and it was a difficult game for us.
"We have to expect a very difficult game on Sunday. They are playing at home as well, so it won't be easy for sure."
But following his appearance at the 2012 Olympics, Di Matteo said Oscar was unlikely to make his debut at the DW Stadium on Sunday.
"He (Oscar) has only been in the building for a day and a half. We will see, I still have to think about it for Sunday but there will be plenty of time for him to play."
Di Matteo is hopeful veteran midfielder Frank Lampard will extend his Chelsea career past the end of his current contract, which expires at the end of this season.
The 34-year-old has been at Stamford Bridge since 2001 but, as he enters the final year of his deal, some have suggested he could be phased out and eventually released despite the player's desire to stay on.
When asked if he was hopeful any talks to renew Lampard's contract would be successful, Di Matteo replied: "I am, yes.
"I've been very happy with Frank and he shows the qualities that he has in every game that he plays, so (he's) a very influential player within the group as well."
"He's in good shape, he's not suffered any major injuries and he looks after himself. We've seen that many players who live a professional life can go on and play up to their late 30s."