Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas has hailed the influence interim manager Roberto Di Matteo has had on Chelsea in the build up to tonight's Champions League semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.

The Italian has been at the helm since March 4 following the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas.

Di Matteo has orchestrated the downfall of Napoli and Benfica in the Champions League, and Tottenham in the FA Cup, something which Fabregas has put down to the Blues use of the long ball.

"With Villas-Boas, they tried to have the ball a lot more - not play so many balls long and not seek out the second ball quite so much," explained the Spaniard.

"They've gone back to the type of Chelsea that was more successful a few years ago with Di Matteo - playing on the counter, trying to hit the target man, sitting back and using that No 9 as a reference point."

Fernando Torres is yet to live up to his £50million price tag at Chelsea, but appears to be finding some form. Fabregas, however, is wary of the threat that his compatriot possesses.

"You respect him only by watching him on the field, because he is such a classy player, one of the best in the world.

"We do not think that he will play next to [Didier] Drogba, but if he does we will have to be very careful about him."

The 24-year-old also commented on how his own game had improved since his £30million switch from Arsenal to Barcelona.

Fabregas added: "I was free to do whatever on the pitch at Arsenal, and I wasn't tactically good. I was playing wherever I wanted, up and down.

"Here [at Barcelona], I have to work much more for the team individually, and think about the team tactically. That's what I've improved most. I feel more mature as a player now.

"Before, I was going just up and down and was a bit lost in important moments, because I wanted to do everything myself."

Barcelona go into tonight's match as favourites to win the tie and then go on to retain the trophy. Di Matteo has admitted that his side need to play at the top of their game to overcome the Catalan club to set up a final against either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.

"We need two perfect games," confirmed the Italian. "But the fact we have been performing very well in the past six weeks gives us the belief that we can produce two perfect games.

"The spirit in the group is very high, very good. We have quality players and they are very motivated."

Topics:
#European News
#Football
#UEFA Champions League