Football: Back problems for Chelsea: Trevor Haylett finds a flaw in Glenn Hoddle's European ambitions

Click to follow
LIKE Alex Ferguson and others before him, Glenn Hoddle has been forced to pay witness to the damaging effects the handicap imposed on English contestants in Europe can have on the organisation and stability of his team. While the four goals against Chelsea's name on their return to the Cup-Winners' Cup was impressively eye-catching, the two struck by Viktoria Zizkov in reply were an illustration of where their difficulties will lie in the tournament.

The variety and verve abundant in the Chelsea attack is borne out by early Premiership statisitics showing a return in goals of 2-3-3- 2. For the manager, it was one of the more pleasing aspects of a wet Thursday night that the goals were once more spread around, and that David Rocastle was able to reveal his own scoring potential for the first time since his summer move from Manchester City.

The problems came and will continue to come at the other end because the preferred back-line includes a Russian, a Dane, a Norwegian, and a Scot who, in Uefa's eyes, is as much a foreigner as the others.

Something had to give, even when a back injury ruling out Jakob Kjeldbjerg eased the selection process, and with the diminutive Scot, John Spencer, continuing to make impressive waves upfield, Hoddle decided he could more easily discard Steve Clarke against the visitors from the Czech Republic and make use of Eddie Newton's versatility.

Newton was not the worst No 2 to have trodden the Chelsea turf and, indeed, combined effectively with Rocastle to aid Chelsea's momentum along the right. But his defensive instincts were sorely examined by the skilful Jozef Majoros and Karel Porborsky, Viktoria's best two players and, unfortunately for Newton, the two players closest to his patch.

Any European opposition - even these days the first-round sides who used to be merely fodder for English morale - are capable of exploiting weaknesses and it was not without significance that both goals which brought Viktoria level came from the left-wing position, even allowing for the ferocity of Majoros's strike for the second.

With defensive security likely to be at a higher premium in the return - Chelsea are still awaiting confirmation that it has been switched to the small town of Jablonec - it seems certain that Clarke will be recalled to lend greater balance and experience to the protection squad. Still, injuries permitting, Dennis Wise will definitely be there and, in the kind of form that demands a place in the England squad, he could prove Hoddle's trump card again.