Football: Vialli asks for a rare clean sheet

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The Independent Online
GIANLUCA VIALLI has told his Chelsea players not to take any risks in their European Cup-Winners' Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge tonight when they try to convert their 2-1 first-leg advantage over Real Betis into a semi-final place.

Chelsea's player-manager, who sat out the victory in Spain two weeks ago, wants his team to concentrate on grinding out the right result. "For me a draw would be a wonderful result - a perfect result," he said. "And keeping a clean sheet would be the best way to go about it."

That is easier said than done and, if Vialli's vast experience of European competition with Juventus and Sampdoria has not taught him that, he need only look back to the match in Spain for proof. Tore Andre Flo scored both Chelsea's goals before Betis had found their stride that night.

Chelsea's individually talented defence is collectively flawed, and Vialli's decision to play Ed de Goey only in Cup ties and Dimitri Kharine in the Premiership puts in question vital lines of communication in front of their goal. They have not kept a clean sheet for eight games.

"We cannot set out to get a draw with the Spanish team by being completely negative," Vialli said. "We must still play our football and try to score with a counter-attack but above all we have to be concentrated and aware in defence. There must be no silly mistakes because there have been too many of those."

Vialli is still without his left-back, Graeme Le Saux, and Zola, Di Matteo, Wise, Duberry and Nicholls could all be handicapped by the knowledge that a caution would mean missing the first leg of the semi-final.

Betis are without the defender Roberto Solozabal and the midfielder Fernando, who are suspended, but are in good form after moving up to fourth in the Spanish league with a draw against Atletico Madrid and a victory over Salamanca. They have a superb striker in Spain's Alfonso, who scored in the first leg, as well as the Nigerian Finidi George, and the Croatian set-piece specialist, Robert Jarni.

A clean sheet would be quite an achievement in the face of such firepower.

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