Ryan Bertrand is set to be thrown in at the deep end for Chelsea again on Wednesday as he prepares to fill the void left by Ashley Cole for both club and country.
Roberto Di Matteo all but confirmed on Tuesday that Bertrand would start the Blues' "must-win" Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk after admitting Cole would miss the game through injury. And Bertrand could also find himself called upon by England boss Roy Hodgson, who is set to name his squad on Thursday ahead of next Wednesday's friendly with Sweden.
"Ryan has always performed very well for us every time he's played," Di Matteo said. "He's got that little bit of experience that helps and I have full confidence in him that he'll play a great game."
Bertrand, 23, shot to fame after becoming the first player to make his Champions League debut in the final itself when he was a shock starter in Chelsea's sensational triumph over Bayern Munich. He was picked to provide cover for Cole in midfield that day but against Shakhtar he is expected to start in his preferred position of left-back.
Nevertheless, the loss of Cole - still regarded by many as the best left-back in the world - for a match Di Matteo has branded Chelsea's biggest since the Champions League final was a blow.
Cole is also in danger of being made to wait again for his 100th England cap. Injury prevented the 31-year-old reaching the landmark in their opening World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, while his Twitter attack on the Football Association verdict in the John Terry racism scandal arguably played a part in him being rested for last month's match with San Marino.
Frank Lampard also looks certain to miss England's friendly as well as Chelsea's Champions League clash, which heralds the return of John Terry after the completion of his domestic four-match racism ban.
Meanwhile, Shakhtar boss Mircea Lucescu has warned he is ready to mastermind another shock victory at Stamford Bridge.
Lucescu was the last manager to win a group game at the home of the Blues when Besiktas triumphed there in 2003. And he has no fear about a ground that has since become a fortress in Europe's premier club competition.
"I prepare my players knowing very well that absolutely all the teams can be beaten, even Chelsea at home," said Lucescu, who oversaw a 2-1 win over Chelsea in Donetsk two weeks ago.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ashley Cole
- Roberto Di Matteo
- Ryan Bertrand
- Champions League
- Shakhtar Donetsk