Di Matteo defends Terry, Lampard omissions
Roberto Di Matteo defended his decision to drop John Terry and Frank Lampard after Chelsea struggled to a 1-0 win over Stoke on Saturday.
Ashley Cole's first goal for the Blues in over two years sealed an unconvincing win five minutes from time after a stubborn and disciplined Stoke side had frustrated their hosts at Stamford Bridge for long periods.
Both Terry and Lampard were introduced as second-half substitutes, but the narrow nature of the victory meant the Italian's decision to relegate two of his senior stars to the bench was widely questioned.
"We were just utilising the squad," he told reporters.
"We have some good players, and we wanted to bring some fresh ones in.
"We've done it many times before and we'll continue to use the squad, because we play so many games. We don’t want to get to November and be burned out.
"John Terry and Frank Lampard are fantastic. They are two big members of the team, two leaders and they lead by example.
"When they are not involved they support me and support the team, and it's a pleasure for me to have players like that.
"Whenever you play against Stoke, it's always so hard to break them down, because they defend with so many men and they're very well drilled.
"If you get an early goal it helps your game massively. If not, it's just hard work to try and find spaces."
Saturday's match also saw Chelsea field Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar in the same starting line-up for the first time and, while the trio's combinations occasionally hinted at promising things to come, Di Matteo admitted they need more time together on the training pitch to become truly effective.
"It's the first time we have tried them together," he continued.
"It certainly needs more work to be able to tactically integrate them perfectly into our system. They worked well, but it's a question of time and practice for them to get to know each other better."
Di Matteo also dismissed suggestions that Fernando Torres is unhappy, after the Spaniard followed up a petulant reaction to being substituted against QPR with another uninspired display.
"Fernando in a very good mood because he's in a team which is at the top of the league," he insisted.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis blasted Chelsea players Branislav Ivanovic and Oscar for what he felt to be blatant simulation during their clash.
Ivanovic went down easily in the first half under a challenge from Geoff Cameron in the penalty area and escaped a caution, while Oscar was booked for diving later on, and the 54-year-old felt that the Blues' stars' tumbling was 'laughable'.
"What really disappointed me was the simulation. Ivanovic's penalty appeal in the first half was laughable, and the lad Oscar - who's a fabulous player - did something similar in the second half," he told reporters.
"This is England. We can't watch people just fall over and not talk about it. We should highlight it and keep on highlighting it, because it's a part of the game we don’t talk about enough."
While referee Michael Oliver missed Ivanovic's attempted dive, Pulis had kind words for the young official, but he still felt Oliver should have sent off David Luiz after a wild tackle on Stoke striker Jon Walters.
He added: "I thought the referee was smashing today, but they put enormous pressure on him, and it's a difficult enough job anyway.
"(Luiz's tackle) was a dreadful challenge, and I think David would be the first to admit it. He was very lucky to stay on the pitch."