CHELSEA manager Roberto di Matteo last night issued a stark warning to his players as they look to clinch another glamour Champions League semi-final against Barcelona with victory over Benfica.
Only twice in the competition’s history has a team won away in the first leg and still crashed out, meaning the Blues, who lead 1-0, go into this evening’s return match at Stamford Bridge as favourites to progress.
Yet Benfica have scored on all six of their European trips this season, and Chelsea know all about second-leg reversals, having overturned Napoli’s advantage with a rousing 4-1 win in the last round.
“It is a danger. This is half-time and we’re leading 1-0. But a 1-0 lead is basically nothing,” said caretaker boss Di Matteo, who refused to be drawn on whether he wanted the job on a permanent basis.
“Our players are aware of this, and we’ll have to go into this game with the right attitude, the same attitude as against Napoli. Nothing has been done yet. We’re aware of that. We need to go and qualify for the next round. This tie is far from over.”
Di Matteo, who hopes to have a fully fit squad at his disposal, rejected the chance to state his desire to remain in charge, despite saving the club’s season from oblivion since taking over from thesacked Andre Villas-Boas a month ago.
“It’s a fantastic club, I’ll agree with you on that,” the former Blues midfielder conceded. “I need to win games, it’s as simple as that. It’s a results business and that’s all that matters.”
The ex-West Brom manager also declined to dream of lifting the trophy coveted most by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, perhaps wisely given Barca last night confirmed they lie in wait in the last four.
“I have no time to think about that anyway,” said the Italian. “I’m full on in my work all day to prepare the team tactically and physically for the next game.”
Benfica manager Jorge Jesus, who led his side to a draw at Manchester United in the group stage, argued Chelsea “had a lot of luck” in Lisbon last week and said he was confident of upsetting the odds.
He added: “They came out to play for a 0-0 draw and ended up getting a win. We need to score to progress, that’s obvious, but we’ll play an offensive game and I’m sure we can take it to Chelsea.”