Terry and Lampard face final on bench
Thursday 21 February 2008
Avram Grant is considering leaving both Frank Lampard and John Terry out of his starting line-up for Sunday's Carling Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur. Both players, who have only recently returned from injury, are understood to privately fear they will be excluded but if the Chelsea manager goes ahead with his plan it will be a remarkably bold move drawing a line under the Jose Mourinho era of "untouchables".
Neither the Chelsea captain nor vice-captain started Tuesday's Champions League draw at Olympiakos – although Lampard came on in the final minutes. Chelsea remain favourites to win the tie, and Grant may regard the result as a vindication of his selection, even if he will be concerned at his team's lack of bite.
That may ultimately influence whether or not he starts with Terry and Lampard but certainly the thinking prior to the trip to Greece was for both to sit out the Wembley final because Grant does not believe they have returned to full fitness. Terry has played just once since breaking bones in his foot against Arsenal in December while Lampard has looked short of fitness following his return from a thigh injury.
It could be that, more significantly, Grant is making his own mark on the Chelsea team and it was intriguing after Tuesday's match to hear him refuse to give guarantees to players regarded as automatic choices under Mourinho.
At the same time Michael Ballack has increasingly looked to be Grant's most relied upon midfielder and Lampard spoke of his frustration at being left on the bench.
"I don't want to miss any more games," he said. "We understood the reasons for not playing. You have to be mature as a professional and understand that, but it doesn't mean you can't be frustrated and want to play football, as that's what the manager would expect.
"It was OK on the bench. I played the other day and there's a lot of games to come. It's a long season and there are a lot of important games to come."
Lampard also admitted that he is not a fan of rotation – which Grant has implied he will employ for the rest of the season. "It's important we get a settled team in the run-in," the midfielder said.
"Any good team I've been involved in has had a pretty settled line-up, and it'll be down to the manager to find that. Me and John are going to be fresh anyway and a Cup final against Tottenham is always a game that you are going to be very excited about."
Chelsea will reveal their annual financial results today and intend to use the occasion to announce their support for the embattled Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore. Having gone public with his plans for an international 39th game in January 2011, Scudamore has born the brunt of scepticism from the public, media and government.
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