Abramovich to stay away from Bridge for semi-final

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Roman Abramovich is due to fly to Israel this morning to attend a friendly tournament he is sponsoring, rather than be at Stamford Bridge for the second leg of the League Cup semi-final tonight.

The Chelsea owner's decision to miss his second successive match, following his non-appearance at Anfield last Saturday, will fuel the growing crisis at the Premiership champions. It is clear that Abramovich is staying away from games because of his disillusionment with the club's manager, Jose Mourinho.

The snub also fits with the pattern of Abramovich's behaviour towards people he has fallen out with. The billionaire, despite his power and wealth, goes out of his way to avoid face-to-face confrontation. Such is the rift that now exists between owner and manager.

Abramovich has poured millions into the competition in Tel Aviv, the so-called First Channel Cup, which lasts a week and involves six clubs - two from Israel, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv; two from Russia, Spartak Moscow and CSKA Moscow; and two from Ukraine, Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk.

However, the competition does not start until tomorrow and there is no reason why Abramovich could not also attend the game against Wycombe Wanderers this evening and then travel to Israel. The League Two side drew the first leg 1-1.

Abramovich is believed to have contributed around £4m to the costs of the First Channel Cup, which is all the more galling for Mourinho following the Russian's decision to balk at paying the asking prices for some of the manager's transfer targets this month.

Abramovich's presence in Israel will also lead to further questions as to whether or not he intends to employ Avram Grant, the former coach of the national team who is currently Ports-mouth's technical director. It is now taken as given from sources close to both men that Grant, who is close to Frank Arnesen, Chelsea's youth football director, will join the club either this summer or next as an assistant coach or in some technical capacity.

Grant does not, however, speak Russian, as has been claimed in some reports, and so cannot be the "Russian-speaking Israeli coach" described by Portuguese sources to have been earmarked to work with the striker Andrei Shevchenko before Mourinho's vehement objection.

The only person who appears to fit that bill is the coach of Hapoel Tel Aviv, Itzhak Shum, who was born in Russia and succeeded Grant. But there is no love lost between the two men. It is unlikely that, in light of Grant's strong relationship with Abramovich, that Shum would be employed at Chelsea.

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