Di Matteo: 'Top 4 is more important'
Roberto Di Matteo says a top-four finish is more important to Chelsea than winning the FA Cup — or even the Champions League.
Interim boss RDM has worked a miracle by closing the gap at the top of the Premier League despite having to contend with extra cup games since he took over on March 4.
Now victory at home to Newcastle tonight could take the Blues back into the top four for the first time since Andre Villas-Boas was sacked two months ago.
Di Matteo knows Chelsea must qualify for next year’s Champions League after banking £50million from their run to this month’s final in Munich.
And he does not want to be relying on victory over Bayern Munich on May 19 to guarantee their presence in Europe’s top club competition again.
He said: “We have been trying to make up the distance on the clubs ahead of us and now we are in a good position to get fourth.
“From my first day in charge we have always said getting into the top four is crucial.
“It is credit to the players that we are so close to Spurs, Newcastle and even Arsenal while we have still managed to progress in the Champions League and FA Cup.
“We didn’t want to just throw anything away and, fortunately, we are in a position where we are still fighting on all three fronts.
“I’ve really enjoyed coaching in the Champions League.
“It’s an exciting, fantastic experience.
“No one is thinking about the consequences of missing out on the Champions League. We are thinking positively.”
Chelsea are sixth but will jump to fourth if they beat the fifth-placed Toon tonight and Spurs, who are fourth, fail to win at Bolton.
The Blues were seven points adrift of Spurs when RDM replaced AVB but have lost only once in 16 league and cup games under their interim manager.
Di Matteo added: “Every game for the past few months has been a must-win for us and the fixture list has not exactly been generous to us. Newcastle have had a day’s extra rest to prepare and Liverpool will get an extra day ahead of the FA Cup final on Saturday.
“We’ve three more weeks of the season and then a lot of the players will be going to Euro 2012 and maybe even the Olympics.
“It’s a fantastic experience for any pro to be involved in those tournaments and as much as we might like them not to play, we have to respect the fact it could be a once-in-a-lifetime.”