Turnbull in line of fire as Chelsea face 'keeper crisis
CHELSEA have been hit by a goalkeeping crisis before their Champions League last-16 second leg against Inter Milan on Tuesday.
Ross Turnbull will make his first Premier League appearance for the club against West Ham United today and is likely to keep his place for Jose Mourinho's eagerly awaited return to Stamford Bridge next week because Petr Cech and Hilario are struggling with calf and groin injuries.
Chelsea's goalkeepers have been out of form for much of the season, but this is the gravest situation yet, demonstrated by Rhys Taylor, the 19-year-old, having to be summoned from the reserves as cover this afternoon.
Cech made a series of mistakes before he was injured in the 2-1 defeat by Inter last month and Hilario was even more unreliable until he was hurt in last weekend's FA Cup win over Stoke City, thus placing the inexperienced Turnbull in the line of fire for the biggest match of the club's season.
Turnbull has made only two appearance since signing on a free transfer from Middlesbrough last summer, replacing the injured Hilario as a substitute in a Carling Cup victory over Bolton Wanderers and starting a 'dead' Champions League tie against Apoel, with even Carlo Ancelotti conceding that he faces a difficult task if he plays against Inter.
The 25-year-old has made 27 top-flight appearances and was second-choice behind Brad Jones at Middlesbrough for much of last season, Chelsea signing him primarily because he counts as a home-grown player under UEFA regulations and therefore provides the club with an additional space in their Champions League squad.
"It's a big test for sure," Ancelotti said. "It's very, very difficult. I understand this, and I think Ross Turnbull understands this too."
Ancelotti attempted to boost Turnbull's confidence by praising his work rate and application in training, but he has been less impressed with his performances on the pitch.
Turnbull started the season as No 2 to Cech and was on the bench for Chelsea's opening game of the campaign against Hull City, but slipped down the pecking order after making a series of mistakes on his debut for the reserves in a 4-0 defeat by Aston Villa.
In contrast, Hilario's stock has risen after making his debut for Portugal and Ancelotti will give him every opportunity to prove his fitness for Tuesday.
It will be very difficult for Hilario," Ancelotti said. "Ross hasn't had a possibility to play, but he's worked very hard. I think it's a good opportunity for him to show his quality."
Yuri Zhirkov returns to the side at left-back against West Ham after a calf injury, but Ancelotti will not risk Ricardo Carvalho, who has a thigh problem that is not expected to prevent him playing against Inter.
Ancelotti also expressed "100pc confidence" that Joe Cole will stay at Chelsea next season, despite the deadlock in his contract talks.
Cole has been unable to force his way into the starting XI after long-term injury and will again start on the bench.
"He's told me he wants to stay here," Ancelotti said. "I can't put all the players in the line-up, so it's important that when you have an opportunity, you show your best." (© The Times, London)