Football: Chelsea's passport to riches

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The Independent Online
THE CHELSEA manager, Gianluca Vialli, has warned his players not to allow the fear of being booked to hinder them in pursuit of their ultimate goal against Skonto Riga this afternoon - securing a place among the elite of Europe.

Chelsea know that yellow cards could hamper their progress in the Champions' League if they qualify for the lucrative group stages, which seems likely given the 3-0 lead they gained in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Any bookings will remain valid during the rest of the campaign and players who earn a total of three yellow cards will face either a one or two-match suspension.

Vialli knows his team could face an added handicap compared to clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United, who are automatically through to the group stages. Chris Sutton has already picked up a yellow card in the first leg for kicking the ball away after the whistle blew and Chelsea's players are aware that the Latvian champions could attempt to lure them into further indiscipline.

The Spanish full-back Albert Ferrer declared: "They are going to fight and give 100 per cent to beat us so it's important that we are really calm and keep our heads."

Chelsea's captain Dennis Wise may certainly be a marked man after his provocative goal celebrations at Stamford Bridge, while Franck Leboeuf suffered at the hands of Andrejs Tereskinas, who was sent off for kicking him. But while Vialli expects his players to keep their heads in the Latvian capital, he made it clear that he primarily wants them to concentrate on securing victory. "Some cards are avoidable but we have to finish the job with a free mind and not be too concerned about yellow cards," he declared. "We must remember that we are playing this match - not the next round."

Chelsea travelled here without their French international midfielder Didier Deschamps and the England defender Graeme Le Saux due to calf injuries and Vialli may well decide to rotate his squad. That could mean a starting place for Tore Andre Flo, while Leboeuf, who received a nasty gash to his leg against Aston Villa last weekend, could be rested.

The Danish defender Jes Hogh, as well as Bjarne Goldbaek and Gabriele Ambrosetti, will therefore be hoping for call-ups, as will some of Chelsea's youngsters.