Di Matteo must resist Torres temptation

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Football News

Perhaps one of the more difficult decisions of Roberto di Matteo's brief tenure as Chelsea manager will come when he selects his side to face Manchester City on Wednesday evening.

Prior to Sunday's convincing victory over Leicester City in the quarter-final of the FA Cup, the prospect of Fernando Torres earning a starting berth at the Etihad Stadium appeared to be somewhat unlikely.

However, after giving his finest performance in the blue of Chelsea in a 5-2 triumph, the Spaniard may yet earn the opportunity to spearhead Di Matteo's against Manchester City this week.

Against Leicester, Torres ended a barren spell in front of goal by netting for the first time in 24 games - 1541 minutes - and then scored again little over quarter of an hour later.

But, not only did he score for the first in five months, Torres also played with a verve and freedom unheralded since his arrival at Stamford Bridge from Anfield in January of last year.

Torres was perhaps patronisingly praised following his performance against Napoli last week, when his endeavour and thrust were applauded, despite a glaring miss in front of goal.

The 27-year-old does, however, deserve to be lauded for his display against Leicester, even if it did happen to come against a side one division and 27 places below Chelsea in the English football hierarchy.

Torres may now feel as though he has done enough to convince Di Matteo that he warrants a place against City for this week's Premier League encounter, but the interim Blues boss should resist the temptation to start the striker.

In reality, for all Torres' application and unselfishness, Di Matteo must name Didier Drogba in his starting line-up and relegate the former to his more customary position on the Chelsea substitutes bench.

It does, however, remain a selection dilemma not afforded to Andre Villas-Boas during his time at the club, with Torres in abject form and Drogba not hitting his straps under the Portuguese.

The latter, though, delivered a timely performance of note against Napoli - arguably one of his most devastating and canny in many a year.

The 34-year-old showcased his immense talents in all their glory, scoring one goal and assisting another, while almost equal value can be given to his ability to provide an outlet as the game became stretched.

City can boast the meanest defence in the Premier League this season, and Chelsea's only genuine hope of rattling Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott will be to make Drogba the focal point.

The task awaiting Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium is a daunting one - City have won each of their 14 league fixtures at home this season, scoring 42 times and conceding only six goals.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have not registered a victory away from home in the league since they beat Wolves in controversial circumstances on January 2, with Frank Lampard providing the winner when he was lucky to be on the pitch.

Lampard has also enjoyed a resurgence of sorts since the departure of Villas-Boas, and Di Matteo will have faith in the Chelsea old guard to restore even further pride with a result in Manchester.

A spine of Petr Cech, John Terry, Lampard and Drogba may be well past its prime, but Di Matteo has already seen the benefit of pandering to the egos of the club's biggest stars.

No ego is larger than that of Drogba, and it is imperative that Di Matteo keeps him on side as Chelsea fight not only to win the Champions League and the FA Cup, but also to secure a place in the former for next season.

Missing out on a place in European football's premier club competition would not be a financial catastrophe for the Blues, but it is a nightmare they must avoid at all costs.

Torres may be playing his best football in over 12 months, but Drogba is still the man to deliver the goods when it counts most for Chelsea.

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Didier Drogba
Premier League
Fernando Torres

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