Roberto Di Matteo has only Marko
Marin unavailable to face
Manchester City in the Community
Shield at Villa Park on Sunday.
The German international sat out
last weekend's friendly defeat at
Brighton and is still not ready for
action, but we can expect Chelsea
returns for Juan Mata and Daniel
Sturridge, while Oriol Romeu and
Ryan Bertrand are also in
contention, and Eden Hazard is
expected to make his debut.
'Everybody apart from Marko
Marin is fit and available and I
will select the final team
tomorrow after the last training,'
said Di Matteo.
'It's certainly going to be a
strong team, keeping in mind the
stage where the players are, they
are at different stages, but it will
be a strong team.
'There is always competition for
places and I try to keep it as
open as possible for people
fighting for places. We've only
had some of the players back this
week from the Olympics and it
will take a bit of time to find the
right players in the right
positions. We have a couple of
new players but a lot of them
have been here before and know
As Premier League champions,
City are probably favourites for
the game, and Di Matteo expects
a tough challenge from Roberto
Mancini's men, believing they will
be among the frontrunners once
again in 2012/13.
'Everybody will be chasing them.
They have a good squad, a good
team and when you are at the
top it is hard to stay at the top,'
said the Italian. 'There will be
plenty of clubs trying to catch
them up this season.
'There was a big gap last season
and that's one of our challenges
this season, to try and bridge it.
Twenty-five points was a lot, and
we have a tough season ahead
trying to compete.
'There are a lot of very good
teams this season, it seems the
Premier League is getting more
balanced every year. They have a
good squad and will be difficult
to catch but that's the job of all
the other teams.
'Traditionally this match doesn't
give a big clue to what kind of
season you will have, but it will
be competitive and both teams
will want to win. But whoever
wins doesn't necessarily go on to
win the Premier League or
anything else [but] it's always
better to win. It's a good feeling
and the players know a win
against Man City would be great
and give us the right step into
the Premier League.'
With Oscar yet to join up with the
squad, Di Matteo believes we will
have a formidable group once it
begins to gel.
'I watched him in the Olympics,
before the Olympics, and he will
certainly add a lot of quality to
our team. He is still a young man
and will be able to learn a lot
from the players we have here,
and the mentality of the players
here,' said the manager.
'There are plenty of trophies to
win this season and we have a
very driven team and players
who are never satisfied with
what they have done in the past.'
Di Matteo also suggested he is
still interested in adding to the
squad, with a striker a possible
priority, particularly given the
likelihood of Romelu Lukaku
departing on loan.
'At this stage of his career the
most important thing is to play. It
might be a bit more difficult here
with us so it's the best choice to
let him go out on loan,' admitted
'We are a little bit light in a
couple of positions and we've
got one or two young players
who are interesting but we will
see what is going to go on and
see what happens when the
Another player who has been
linked with a move away is
Daniel Sturridge, who was today
called into the England squad.
The player, Di Matteo says,
remains firmly in his plans.
'He is part of the squad, of the
team, and still has a lot to give. He
still has a lot to learn as well but
we are hopeful he can develop
even more and become a great
player for us.
'He did very well to recover from
his illness in a short period of
time. He is a very exciting player
and it's great for him to be
involved in the England squad.
'He has the ability to play in more
than one position. He made it
quite public he likes to play as a
number nine but there is
competition, which is good, and
we will see as the season starts
who is going to play.