Oct 30 2012
Roberto Di Matteo is pondering whether to leave John Obi Mikel or Juan Mata out of Chelsea's Capital One Cup clash with Manchester United.
Blues boss Di Matteo was always likely to consider resting the midfield duo, given the number of changes the club traditionally make for League Cup ties. But he also had to take into account their emotional state after it emerged they were the Chelsea players who referee Mark Clattenburg was accused of using "inappropriate language" towards during Sunday's explosive Barclays Premier League game against United.
"It is certainly a tricky situation," Di Matteo told his club's official website, www.chelseafc.com. "It is also our fourth game in 10 days and they have all been big games, so we are looking to freshen the team up a little bit for sure, and also put a couple of youngsters in."
It is unclear whether either would prefer to sit out Wednesday night's revenge mission, which takes place against a backdrop of yet another racism saga that threatens to drag English football through the mud.
Clattenburg, who faces police and Football Association investigations, is understood to categorically deny any wrongdoing.
The official in the middle of what could be a febrile atmosphere at Stamford Bridge is Lee Mason, who United boss Sir Alex Ferguson jokingly wished "Good luck!" even before the serious allegations about Clattenburg emerged.
That was because of the decision by Sunday's referee to send off two Chelsea players and failure to spot Javier Hernandez's winning goal should have been disallowed for offside. By accident or by design, the atmosphere tomorrow could be helped by the likelihood of both sides making a raft of changes for the fourth-round clash.
Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic are both suspended following their red cards on Sunday, with John Terry also banned. Ashley Cole was likely to be among those rested and is suffering with an ankle problem anyway, while Frank Lampard remains out.
Daniel Sturridge, Cesar Azpilicueta and Lucas Piazon - who has shaken off a hamstring strain - all look certain to start. They could be joined by Victor Moses, Marko Marin, Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand if Mikel and Mata are given a breather, and youngsters George Saville and Nathan Ake may also be included in the first-team squad.
Meanwhile, Monday saw Di Matteo named on a 10-man shortlist for FIFA's World Coach of the Year award. The Italian was disappointed Didier Drogba was the only member of his Champions League-winning squad nominated for the FIFA Ballon d'Or but added: "It is a privilege to be the manager of Chelsea and to work with these world-class players, trying to achieve success."