Ancelotti to press Terry into action despite injury
Aston Villa 0
Chelsea plan to rest Michael Essien for tomorrow's Champions League tie away to Spartak Moscow, but John Terry has been told, despite his sore back, that he must play. "I am sure the (plastic) pitch will help in Russia as well as the four-hour journey (flight)," Terry said ruefully. "At times like this, when we are down to the bare bones, I am fit to play."
The champions are in a curious phase. They are -- and the face of manager Carlo Ancelotti betrayed this on Saturday evening after the goalless draw at Villa Park -- slightly getting away with it right now with Manchester United listing so badly.
Injuries and illness have hit hard a squad that is high in quality, low in numbers. Terry toed the party line, lauding the opportunities being provided to the likes of 17-year-old Josh McEachran -- who should have cost Chelsea this match after being caught in possession -- but this wasn't the message he was putting out until recently when he spoke of the need for high-calibre recruits.
"We lost players last year and the club have been stressing the importance of bringing young players through," Terry said.
"I feel with one or two injuries we will have to call on the kids but everyone needs a chance. There are a couple of players in and around Josh's age group who show real signs of quality."
It's a risky strategy, however, and although Ancelotti hopes to call on Alex, Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge in Moscow, he is still without Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Yossi Benayoun and wants to rest Essien -- "if it's possible, I don't want to put him on the pitch," he said -- while he is undoubtedly going against his instinct by pressing Terry into service despite bruising on his back.
Terry proved that against Villa in an encounter that was book-ended by drama, but which drifted for long periods partly because Chelsea were so compact, so difficult to overcome and because the home side missed Emile Heskey -- ruled out with his own back complaint.
A draw, then, and one more point for Chelsea than they achieved at Villa Park last season -- it is now, however, just one win in 12 visits -- although Ancelotti admitted he was "obviously" frustrated at not extending the lead over United, after their draw at home earlier in the afternoon.
For Villa, Gerard Houllier stated that he is undertaking a change in "philosophy" at the club he inherited following Martin O'Neill's departure and they are certainly improving. Although he chose his words carefully, it was clear what he meant. He is trying to stop them being a long-ball team. "I like my football to start from the back," he said.
"Sometimes you can play long ball, sometimes you have to build up from the back. Everything starts from the back." That may well be a comment that will raise O'Neill's hackles but, certainly, Villa are less direct under Houllier with Stiliyan Petrov thriving. (© Daily Telegraph, London)