Roberto Di Matteo has been faultless in his three months as temporary coach of Chelsea and the players will go all out to give him the Champions League trophy his efforts deserve, midfielder Frank Lampard said today.
Di Matteo took over when an underachieving Andre Villas-Boas was sacked in March and has sparked a remarkable turnaround, winning the FA Cup and guiding the team into tomorrow's (NZ time) Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
There was little optimism among the players under Portuguese Villas-Boas but since the Italian was given the reins he has reinvigorated the dressing room and galvanised the squad into a fully-focused unit.
"Robbie was clever at how he managed the situation," Lampard told a news conference on the eve of the final at Bayern's Allianz Arena stadium. "He created confidence in the group from the training ground to the pitch.
"Quietly he has done a perfect job. If anyone deserves to win tomorrow for the work they have done then it is him."
Perched on a chair next to Lampard, who will captain Chelsea in the final in the absence of the suspended John Terry, was Didier Drogba and the club's talismanic striker echoed the views of his team mate.
"We had a difficult first half of the season but that's football," said the 34-year-old Ivorian while playing down suggestions the match with Bayern would be his farewell appearance in a blue shirt.
"We have managed to show everyone we are a big team. We are still here doing our best for the club and the fans. If we win tomorrow everyone will say it was a fantastic season."
Chelsea will pull out all the stops to make amends for the anguish they experienced after the 2008 Champions League final against Manchester United in Moscow where they were beaten in a penalty shootout.
"As a footballer you learn that you cannot win everything," said Lampard. "It is not something so traumatic that we think about it every day but there is something left over from Moscow and that feeling of losing will motivate us to win tomorrow.
"We are just desperate to make the best of this opportunity."
Drogba was sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidic in the face against United and is grateful to be back on the biggest stage in European club football.
"I feel lucky every time I go on the pitch because I am one of the few players in Europe who can play these kind of games and the Champions League doesn't owe me something," said the striker who has amassed 39 goals in the competition.
"It was a difficult moment for me and for the club and I apologised to the fans. It is one memory I cannot forget but at the same time it is in the past.
"Now I look only at this game and I am very happy again to be in the final. Moscow for Chelsea was an experience and we have learned from that," added Drogba.
Which team will win the 2013/14 Champions League?