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John Terry is ready to lead Chelsea again, says manager Roberto Di Matteo

Updated: Tuesday, 23 Oct 2012 07:51 | Comments

John Terry will lead Chelsea against Shakhtar Donetsk
John Terry will lead Chelsea against Shakhtar Donetsk

Roberto Di Matteo today insisted John Terry could still be held up as Chelsea's "leader" as the club's tarnished captain prepared to don not one, but two armbands in the midst of his racism ban.

Terry looks certain to be recalled for the Champions League clash at Shakhtar Donetsk, which comes one game into his now-infamous four-match domestic suspension.

The 31-year-old will captain the side after Chelsea controversially refused to strip him of the honour over the language he used towards Anton Ferdinand a year ago tomorrow.

And in timing that could hardly be more ironic, the defender will also wear an armband bearing the slogan 'Unite Against Racism' as part of a Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) campaign scheduled for this week.

His manager understandably had one foot firmly in the former camp.

"He has realised that he used language that was inappropriate and he has apologised for that and has certainly learned from that issue," Di Matteo said. "And with good performances and good behaviour in the future he should still be looked upon as the leader for our club."

Terry has never had a problem with the nuts and bolts of leadership, even under the most extreme pressure.

Indeed, it has become a cliche that he saves his best performances for when he is in the eye of a storm.

But never has he faced a bigger test of character than the aftermath of his Football Association guilty verdict.

Di Matteo said: "I've never been concerned about picking him.

"He's been able to focus on the games and that's what the players love to do, playing football and it's good for them that they can focus on that."

He added: "What is common for players is that, even if they have family problems or some kind of issues outside in their private life, they tend to be able to focus on the football because it kind of just helps them."

The football is the one area where Chelsea are doing almost everything right this season.

Saturday's 4-2 Barclays Premier League win at Tottenham was arguably the most stunning in a string of ominous victories for the European champions.

It was also the ideal way to start a punishing run of fixtures that takes in tomorrow's match and two potentially-defining contests against Manchester United.

Di Matteo has so far handled the twin on- and off-field pressures as deftly as any Chelsea manager since Jose Mourinho.

Certainly better than Carlo Ancelotti, who sometimes struggled to sleep, and Andre Villas-Boas, who reportedly resorted to sleeping at the club's training ground.

"I've had a good baptism, I have to say, from the day I took over last season," Di Matteo said.

"You just deal with the pressure.

"We don't get time to enjoy anything, you know. After the win on Saturday, by 10-o'clock in the evening, you're thinking already about Shakhtar.

"And 7-7.30 Sunday morning, you're back in the office. That's maybe the only downfall.

"You can't even take in victories like that and the performance. You're switching straight on to the next game."

After a brief pause, he added: "I'm sleeping very well, though."

That may change if Chelsea repeat the slump they have traditionally suffered at this point of a season and which have cost them dearly in the past.

"I've obviously looked at the past seasons," Di Matteo said.

"That's why I talk about waiting til Christmas to see where we stand.

"We will have to see.

"We have done everything in our power and planning that we think will help us to get through this period."

Shakhtar are more than equipped to kickstart such a bad run, having won their last 21 league matches and 15 of their 16 games this season of, taking four points from their first two Champions League outings to lie joint top of Group E with Chelsea.

With Juventus just two points behind, it is looking like a three-way battle to reach the knockout stage.

Di Matteo said: "You will probably need more than the 10 points that normally qualifies you."

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