Football: Morris backs Chelsea's cause

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JODY MORRIS expects a tough Premiership battle when Chelsea meet Blackburn at Stamford Bridge tonight. The midfielder has established himself in Gianluca Vialli's squad and is looking forward to pitting his wits against Brian Kidd's resurgent team.

Chelsea have slipped out of their fluent early-season form, but Morris feels Saturday's 1-0 FA Cup win at Sheffield Wednesday may give them the right tonic as the season enters its crucial final stages. "I thought we played really well on Saturday, and the manager was really buzzing after the game," said 20-year-old Morris.

"Hopefully we've turned the corner after a bad patch. All of us believe that. Blackburn are a tough team. They can play a physical game, but I think there are enough players in our team known for their physical attributes as well and I'm confident we can come away with something from the game."

Vialli's team have stumbled since topping the Premiership and now have to claw back ground on Manchester United. Long-term injuries to Gustavo Poyet, Pierluigi Casiraghi and Tore Andre Flo and the transfer of Brian Laudrup have not helped matters.

Vialli has been the first to acknowledge loss of form but the Italian has seen his team grind out points while playing indifferently. As a result Chelsea are second in the League and alive on two cup fronts. The Hillsborough win booked a place in the last eight of the FA Cup, and the Blues continue the defence of their European Cup-Winners' Cup crown next month.

Fixtures will come thick and fast over the coming months, and Vialli knows the hectic end of season can catch clubs out. "We like to play well, but it's not easy because of the fixture schedule," he said.

"It's nice to see that after a few poor games we are now playing well. This is the way we would like to play. But it's not always possible because you play so many matches in England. But we hope from now to the end of the season we will keep giving good performances and keep winning."

Dennis Wise starts his latest ban against Blackburn. He was sent off for the fourth time this season in the FA Cup fourth-round replay win against Oxford.

Eddie Newton, Bernard Lambourde, Andy Myers and Mark Nicholls are all added to Saturday's squad, while Morris is likely to continue in midfield. The England Under-21 international has no intention of stepping aside for any of his more illustrious team-mates.

Morris told Chelsea ClubCall: "I'm definitely a better player than I was this time last year. Off the pitch I've matured, and that's reflected in my performances."