Cole delight as Mourinho grants his starting wish

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The Independent Football

On his first return to Germany since registering as one of England's rare successes during the World Cup, Joe Cole will be granted an almost as rare start for Chelsea tonight.

The manager, Jose Mourinho, yesterday confirmed that Cole will begin only his third match for his club this season and his first in the Champions' League. He insisted, however, that the 25-year-old, who appears to face an annual struggle to force his way into the Chelsea team, was not the "victim" of the strength of the squad.

"He is the victim of the injury he had," Mourinho said of the knee damage Cole suffered in Chelsea's first pre-season game, in the United States in July, which kept him out for two months.

"Now you can say he is the victim of Chelsea's performances and results," Mourinho added. "The team is playing well and it's not easy to change when the team is doing so well. But he's improving."

Cole, who has nevertheless been frustrated at the lack of opportunities, will start in place of Arjen Robben. "The opportunity is not to impress me because I know he's a very good player and it's for him to do well for the team," Mourinho said.

"Last season he was crucial for our Premiership title and also for our squad. Joe at his maximum level is a very important player."

With Frank Lampard suspended, Mourinho will use Michael Ballack, the German captain back on home soil, while Khalid Boulahrouz will replace the injured Ricardo Carvalho. But with Wayne Bridge attending the birth of his child and Salomon Kalou also injured, it means Chelsea's squad is down to just 18 available players.

Consequently there is little margin for further injury, with the trip to Manchester United to come in the Premiership on Sunday and that has led to the odd conspiracy theory. The thinking goes that Chelsea may ease up especially as they are in, as Mourinho put it, a "magnificent" position to qualify from Group A. And if they hold back, it could play a role in Barcelona not qualifying for the knock-out stages.

Such talk was rightly brushed aside by Mourinho. "I play to lose only when I play against my kids because I want them to be happy," he said. "After that football is to win."

Attention also, inevitably, turned to the referee for Chelsea's two forthcoming games. Tonight it's the Slovakian Lubos Michel, who was in charge when Chelsea were beaten by Liverpool in the Champions' League semi-final. "He wasn't the linesman," Mourinho said of that controversial goal at Anfield. On Sunday it's Howard Webb. "I always wish them well before the game and before I always trust them," Mourinho said. Afterwards it's not always the same.

Werder Bremen (probable 4-1-2-1-2): Wiese; Fritz, Mertesacker, Naldo, Wome; Frings; Borowski, Diego, Jensen; Hunt, Klose.

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Cudicini; Geremi, Boulahrouz, Terry, A Cole; Makelele; Essien, Ballack, J Cole; Shevchenko, Drogba.

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

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