TURIN Fernando Torres sat on the bench for all but 20 minutes of Chelsea's 3-0 Champions League defeat at Juventus on Tuesday, yet still managed to take centre stage as manager Roberto Di Matteo contemplated the crushing setback.
Italian Di Matteo raised eyebrows when he left Britain's most expensive but misfiring striker out of the starting lineup, a decision which meant that Chelsea began the game without a recognised centre-forward.
Torres was also sacrificed when Spain played without a striker at Euro 2012, which they went on to win, but Chelsea's experiment with the system and so-called "false number nines" proved less successful.
Chelsea alternated Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata in the forward role, a tactic which allowed Chelsea to create several good chances in the opening half hour despite Juventus dominating possession.
"I didn't want to give the (Juventus) centre backs a reference point," said Di Matteo, whose future as manager of the volatile London club is now the subject of speculation after what turned into a heavy loss.
"The first good chance fell to us, Oscar had a second one, Mata found himself in front of the goal, in transition we were dangerous and created chances," he added.
"I selected the team I'm convinced was the right team to get a win or a draw. I was convinced it was the right selection and it did create some problems for them."
But Chelsea's plans fell to pieces after Fabio Quagliarella's opening goal for Juve seven minutes before halftime, a moment Di Matteo thought was a key moment.
"The first goal was lucky for Juventus, there was a big deflection. In tight games, the first goal is a lot of times decisive," he said.
With Chelsea on the brink of becoming the first holders to go out at the group stage, the Swiss-born former Italy international was left to mull his own future barely six months after leading them to the Champions League title.
"It's a big disappointment, it was a difficult evening for us, for the team and the club, there was a lot of reflection," said Di Matteo, who took more than an hour to appear at the post-match news conference.
"Mathematically, it is still possible to qualify and while there is still hope you try... Who says Juventus are not going to lose to Shakhtar Donetsk?"
Juve need a point at Shakhtar to guarantee a place in the last 16 while Chelsea's only chance of qualifying is to beat bottom side Nordsjaelland and hope the Italians lose in Ukraine.
"At the moment, we are all in it together and I'm responsible for the results, I'm here and I think I will be for the future," added Di Matteo.
"It's not a question you should ask me but as far as I'm concerned I'm going to keep working." (Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)
Trending On Reuters
England's Premier League is undoubtedly one of the most exciting in world football but as it embarks on its 24th season on August 8 is it also becoming predictable? Full Article