ROBERTO DI MATTEO has told Chelsea fans to lay off Champions League fall guy John Obi Mikel.
By PAUL JIGGINS
Blues midfielder Mikel came under fire from some supporters after his gaffe led to Juventus grabbing a late leveller in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea even had to call in the cops after their Nigerian star was racially abused on Twitter.
Boss Di Matteo, who is set to keep faith with Mikel against Stoke this afternoon, said: “Fans have the right to express their opinions and their feelings, but in the right way.
“Our fans are brilliant. They always support the team.
“But we condemn any kind of discrimination or any sort of racist abuse.”
Police are probing two racist tweets that were sent to Mikel on Thursday.
Chelsea say they will ban the culprits if they are fans of the club, while Mikel has shut down his Twitter account.
Di Matteo claimed: “It was the intention to close the account anyway. There was good reason to close it.
“In general, social media, because it’s anonymous, is a dangerous vehicle to express yourself. If you are going to express opinion you should put your face to it.”
Midfield anchorman Mikel, 25, is still battling to win over some Chelsea fans after six years at the club.
Di Matteo said: “Fans fall more in love with more exciting and creative players, or goal-scoring players.
“He doesn’t get recognition because he does a dirty job. He has to try to break up the opponents’ play. It’s normal in football. You don’t always get recognised with the right credit.
“I think he does extremely well for us. But we all make mistakes sometimes, and other players have made mistakes in the past.
“Collectively we will go forward and go together and we’ll be fine.”
Di Matteo will also keep faith with Fernando Torres, despite former boss Ruud Gullit’s claims in midweek that with the Spaniard up front, Chelsea are playing with 10 men.
Di Matteo hit back at criticism of Torres, insisting: “We’re very happy with him. Even when he doesn’t score he provides and works hard for the team and he’s always an outlet for us.
“He scored goals from the first games he played this season, against City and in the league.
“He’s always busy, keeping defenders busy and moving and doing the right stuff. I don’t see any problems.
“If you see the chance we had with Juan Mata against Juventus he was in the middle on the penalty spot.
“He is full of confidence and playing well and scoring goals. Not in the last couple but he’s scored. At the moment I have no issues.”