Roberto Di Matteo declared that his senior players had proved their doubters wrong by inspiring Chelsea to their Champions League win against Barcelona.
Didier Drogba’s goal at Stamford Bridge means the Blues will take a 1-0 lead into next week’s semi-final second leg at the Nou Camp.
The likes of Drogba, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole were said by some to be in decline and nearing the end of their Chelsea careers before being rejuvenated under interim boss Di Matteo.
They were outstanding against Barca, just as they were in Sunday’s FA Cup victory over Tottenham, while skipper John Terry has also underlined his importance to the team since returning from injury.
“Public opinion has been that these boys are over the hill and are too old to play two games in succession, but they gave their answer on the pitch,” said Di Matteo.
“We go out as a team and we have a good team spirit – young and old play together and fight for the same target.”
But the Italian knows his side will face a hugely difficult task in Barcelona, where Pep Guardiola’s men will be favourites to progress to the final.
“It’s going to be very difficult and we still have to believe that we can score a goal,” he said.
“It’s going to be a tough game. It’s tough for anybody that goes to Barcelona and we will have to do our best again.”