UEFA Champions League: Chelsea's Loss to Juventus Could Cost Di Matteo His Job

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

TURIN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 20:  Roberto Di Matteo of Chelsea looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Juventus and Chelsea at the Juventus Arena on November 20, 2012 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Prior to kick-off at the Stadio Juventus, Roberto Di Matteo may have been relatively calm.

Chelsea were leading Champions League Group E, safe in the knowledge that a victory against an Italian side who have never beaten them would secure a place in the last 16 of the competition with a game to spare.

But as the steep banks of Bianconeri fans roared their team to a 3-0 victory over the course of 90 minutes, the current European champions were left with a campaign hanging precariously in the balance and a manager teetering on the brink of redundancy.

In light of Di Matteo's decision to assign Fernando Torres bench warming duties, Chelsea started the game without a striker, opting to put Eden Hazard up front.

Juve, meanwhile, were arguably lacking a world-class striker in their formidable side too, fronting their 3-5-2 formation with Mirko Vučinić and Fabio Quagliarella.

The Blues looked dangerous on the break in the first half, and enjoyed 53% of possession, but it was The Old Lady who controlled the game, going ahead when Andrea Prilo's deflected shot was steered in by Quagliarella.

In the second half, Di Matteo's tactical gamble bore no fruit as the Italians dominated. As Arturo Vidal's goal went in on 61 minutes, the Blues coach literally shook his fist in anger at what was unfolding before him.

Juve played with casual elegance up until Petr Cech's comic goalkeeping allowed Sebastian Giovinco to complete the rout with an injury-time winner.

Michel Platini, a man who won the European Cup with Juve in 1985, predicted his former side were capable of an upset. And they have certainly delivered it.

Chelsea's fate in this competition is no longer in their hands. Even with a (likely) win against Nordsjælland in the final game, they need Shakhtar Donetsk to beat Juventus at the Donbass Arena.

The Ukrainians are perfectly capable of beating the Serie A champs at home, but with top place in the group virtually secured, it's hard to imagine them pushing for a win. A draw will suit both Juve and Shakhtar, and will make Chelsea the first ever defending European champion not to reach the final 16 of the Champions League.

Many would argue that Roberto Di Matteo has done a fine job at the helm of Chelsea FC. He has won an FA Cup and a Champions League. He has dealt with racism accusations, handshake kerfuffles, player tweeting scandals and the Mark Clattenburg saga with dignity and composure. He has done enough to keep a job no one really expected him to hang on to for more than a matter of weeks.

Yet his position is clearly in danger. By all accounts, Roman Abramovich is not a fan of the man he did not want to hire in the first place. The Daily Mail are just one of many newspapers this week who insist that the Russian billionaire is trying to lure Pep Guardiola from his New York sojourn. The job is understood to be his from next season, but he could be persuaded to take the role much sooner if the trigger is pulled on Di Matteo.

The former Blues midfielder has not won a Premiership match since October, and suffered a humbling defeat to his former club West Brom at the weekend. The defeat against Juventus was Chelsea's biggest Champions League loss of the Abramovich era.

To say Di Matteo has had a bad November is somewhat of an understatement, but given Mr Abramovich's reputation, it could easily get much worse in the next few days.

Just as Chelsea's European fate lays in the hands of another, so too does that of Roberto Di Matteo: if Pep Guardiola is ready to step back into the game before the end of 2012, the Italian manager will undoubtedly have to clear his desk at Cobham.

The Chelsea boss could be granted a stay of execution until the final Champions League matchday, in the hope of being thrown a lifeline by Juventus. But as things stand, it is difficult to see Di Matteo as a Chelsea employee in 2013.