x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Roberto Di Matteo will go for a magnificent seven

Chelsea competing for many trophies, and Manchester City manager says he expects the London club to mount a strong challenge for title this season.

Eden Hazard, above, was one of Roberto di Matteo’s summer signings.
Eden Hazard, above, was one of Roberto di Matteo’s summer signings.

Roberto di Matteo, the Chelsea manager, has welcomed the chance to compete on seven fronts this season - despite the prospect of another fixture pile-up.

Chelsea's march towards Champions League and FA Cup success last term thrust them into a punishing schedule that arguably contributed to them finishing their worst Premier League place of the Roman Abramovich era - sixth.

Many of Chelsea's stars then went on to play at one or both of the European Championship and Olympic Games and there is no respite this season, with the club involved in the most competitions in their history.

On top of their commitments in the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup, the club's unprecedented success opened the door to the Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup.

And Di Matteo's team can win the first available piece of silverware today, the Community Shield, when they face Premier League champions Manchester City at Villa Park.

"We are going to try and win the trophies we're involved in," said Di Matteo.

He added of the three additional trophies: "They're opportunities. It's very hard to be involved in those competitions. When you look at them, it's great to be involved and you want to win these trophies because they don't come around very often. That's how we look at it. We'll deal with the fixture list."

One difference this term is that Chelsea have arguably even more strength in depth in attack, having recruited Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin.

Di Matteo said it could take time to work out exactly where and when to fit in his midfield signings alongside established stars Frank Lampard, Juan Mata and Ramires.

"Some adapt a bit quicker than others, so we'll have to be patient," said the Italian. The good players can always play together. We will find the right way to do that, and the right balance within the team. That's important."

Roberto Mancini, the City manager, is expecting a much stronger title challenge from Chelsea this season.

"For sure," said Mancini. "They have bought young players and also good players."

Mancini says Chelsea's new recruits will further strengthen a team after their surprise Champions League victory in May when they beat Bayern Munich in a penalty shoot-out in the final.

"I said a lot of times that the Champions League is a really strange competition," said Mancini. "It is important you have a good team because you play against the best teams in the world.

"But you should also be lucky when you arrive from the moment you arrive in the quarter-final.

"Maybe Chelsea deserved to win the Champions League five years ago but they won it last year."

Mancini has the same aim this season and with a slightly easier draw - City will be in pot two for the group stage draw, one higher than 12 months ago - it will be a shock if they fail to reach the knockout stages for the first time.

City went on to clinch the Premier League after losing last season's Community Shield to Manchester United.

"If in the end we win the Premier League, it is better we lose against Chelsea," said Mancini.

"But it is important that we try to win because we have not won this cup for a long time and we want to start the season with a victory. We know it will not be easy. Chelsea are a strong team."

* Press Association

4.30pm, Al Jazeera Sport 10