Di Matteo: Reserves could figure in European final
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By STUART CONDIE
COBHAM, England (AP) Injuries and suspensions to key Chelsea players could force manager Roberto Di Matteo to draft some reserve players into his squad for Saturday's Champions League final.
Di Matteo's future as coach could hinge on whether Chelsea becomes European champion for the first time in the club's 107-year history but he has captain John Terry, defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfield pair Ramires and Raul Meireles suspended.
If defender David Luiz fails to recover from injury, Di Matteo acknowledged that he could struggle to find seven experienced substitutes to fill his bench against Bayern Munich.
"If that's worst case scenario, we will take some reserve team players onto the pitch," Di Matteo said Tuesday. "I've been trying some things out in training. We'll see what happens."
Di Matteo, who took over the side in March when Andre Villas-Boas was fired, gave a debut to Sam Hutchinson last month. The 22-year-old defender, who made his second appearance by starting in Sunday's 2-1 Premier League win over relegated Blackburn, could be called on for the match at Munich's Allianz Arena.
"With the suspensions we have, I'm still trying to find some solutions," Di Matteo said.
There will still be plenty of experience available to Di Matteo, who was in midfield for Chelsea when it won the 1998 European Cup Winners Cup.
Didier Drogba is likely to start up front, with Ramires' unavailability meaning Fernando Torres could start on the right of a supporting trio. It could be Drogba's last appearance for Chelsea, with media reports consistently linking the 34-year-old Ivory Coast striker with a move at the end of the season.
Di Matteo said Drogba was showing no sign of slowing or waning with age.
"The club will sit down after this game with the player and decide what the best outcome is for the club and the player," Di Matteo said. "He's physically in good shape; he lives a very professional life and when you do that you can play as long as you want.
"We've seen other players play into their 30s. I don't think it's a question of age."
But Di Matteo would not be drawn on his future, with his position as coach only guaranteed until Saturday.
"My future will be holidays after Saturday," Di Matteo said. "As for my footballing future, it's the wrong time to be thinking about that."
With Roy Hodgson having left West Bromwich Albion to take over as England coach, there is a vacancy at the club Di Matteo led into the Premier League two years ago. The Italian, though, is not interested in going back.
"In my life, I've gone back to an ex-girlfriend and it didn't work out," Di Matteo said. "I'm not sure it's the right move."
Updated May 15, 2012