Roberto Di Matteo has no concerns about John Terry's mental or physical wellbeing ahead of Chelsea's clash with QPR.
Terry will on Saturday face the latest trial by fire of his controversial career when he returns to Loftus Road for the first time since being acquitted of racially abusing R's defender Anton Ferdinand. Blues captain Terry, who is still contesting a Football Association charge over the matter, is expected to be snubbed by Ferdinand during the pre-match handshake.
On top of that, and the possibility of other players rejecting a handshake, he is likely to be taunted mercilessly by Rangers supporters, something which happened on his last visit there in January. Manager Di Matteo said: "As a human being there are certain aspects of life that will faze you. But, if you look at his career, he's always got on with it."
He continued: "He's a confident player. I played with some great players in my career. There were certain players who were very, very confident."
Indeed, former Italy star Di Matteo compared Terry's mental strength with that of some of the best players he had ever played with - "Paolo Maldini, [Angelo] Peruzzi, [Pierluigi] Casiraghi, [Alessandro] Costacurta, [Alessandro] Del Piero, all players who have spent 15 to 20 years at the highest level, domestic and international football."
He added: "To be able to survive for so many years at the top level in football, at club and international level, you need to be mentally strong. That goes for all the players who have had that kind of career, not just JT."
Terry's desperation to play has been compared to that ahead of January's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Loftus Road, which saw him aggravate a knee injury, sidelining him for several weeks. There is a sense of deja vu about the Barclays Premier League clash, with Terry coming into the game having only just shaken off an ankle problem.
Di Matteo said: "To be honest, an injury can happen to anybody in the game. My assessment is on the fact that if the medical department tells me a player is fine, he's available to be selected. You never know what happens in the game. I don't think there are any concerns that he aggravates anything."
It seems certain Terry will start but Di Matteo refused to confirm that, claiming he would consider every aspect of the match - including the handshake - before finalising his team.
He said: "I always consider everything. The internal and external environments, and also the fitness of the team and what's the best team to play against QPR."
- Roberto Di Matteo
- John Terry