The Magpies travelled to Stamford Bridge a solitary point ahead of the Blues but increased the margin to four thanks to two stunning strikes by Papiss Cisse.https://editor.goal.com/british/manage/article/edit/3076492
With two league games left – alongside both an FA Cup and Champions League final – Di Matteo’s side are realistically relying on beating Bayern Munich on May 19 in order to ensure they are amongst Europe’s elite next term, and he admitted that they were off the pace against Newcastle.
"In the first half we couldn’t raise our tempo to where we needed it to be," Di Matteo told reporters.
|BLUE IS THE COLOUR
|15/4||Chelsea are 15/4 with Sportingbet to wi both the FA Cup and Champions League this season.|
"In the second half we were much better and we pushed Newcastle back into their half and created a few chances.
"Newcastle did well tonight, they defended well and had two shots, two goals. They have a player who, when he touches it, it goes in.
"It's going to be difficult now for us to get fourth spot. The season has proven difficult. We will keep pushing to the end though – we won’t give up."
Eyebrows were raised when the Blues boss opted to leave several key figures - including Juan Mata, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard - out for the visit of Newcastle, with the deputising Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda proving ineffectual.
For Di Matteo, such squad rotation was necessary given the multitude of big games Chelsea have and will face towards the end of a congested end to the campaign.
"I always said I select teams to win games and that was my thinking tonight," he added.
"It was our sixth game in 17 days, we cannot ask the same players to go all the time. We have a good squad.
"We've been pushing the players for these last two months and they have responded extremely well.
"They've given everything, the effort is there. We ask them to push, push, push and they’ve done well. We will regroup.
"We've got a big game on Saturday, a great final. It's a great event. The motivation will be there."