Chelsea on target as crunch time arrives, says Wilkins

Coach confident Blues will hit their stride as season enters make-or-break stage
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The Independent Football

Ray Wilkins insists Chelsea are in good shape to face a month that could potentially define their season.

The Blues have three home games in the Premier League, beginning with Middlesbrough at home tonight, plus Hull and Wigan. But they also have crucial away trips to Liverpool and Aston Villa as well as an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Watford and a home leg against Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League.

They will begin their crucial period without the services of defender Ricardo Carvalho, who has been ruled out for 10 days with the recurrence of a hamstring problem.

"It's a great month, a fantastic month," said assistant first-team coach Wilkins. "If you are a footballer, these are the games you want to play in. This month is extremely important for us.

"It's always crucial you pick up maximum points. At home we would expect to do very well indeed... we have a magnificent record away from home and our football is quite exceptional. At home we haven't reproduced that type of football but it's not for the want of trying.

"We're working at it and we'll get back to that level of performance. We're not too far short. When teams come to Stamford Bridge, you must give them credit.

"They set themselves out not to get beat and to make it extremely difficult for our guys. The onus is on us to take the game to them and beat them."

Ivorian striker Didier Drogba, who appeared as a second-half substitute against Ipswich in the FA Cup on Saturday, is again in the squad.

The form of top scorer Nicolas Anelka continues to thwart the Ivorian's hopes of getting back into the side but Wilkins is convinced Drogba will seize his chance when it arrives.

"Didier realises the situation he finds himself in with Nicolas being the top scorer in the Premier League," said Wilkins. "Didier will get his chance at some stage and I'm sure he'll take it because that's the professional man he is."

Despite Chelsea's squad of star players, Wilkins admitted the Blues have not received any offers from other clubs, apart from Manchester City and Tottenham, during the transfer window.

Chelsea have sold Wayne Bridge to City and yesterday allowed reserve goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini to leave for White Hart Lane on a free transfer but, those deals aside, there has been no interest in Luiz Felipe Scolari's men. "We've had nothing at all from Juventus or anybody," confirmed Wilkins. "We haven't had any requests from any other club.

"As far as Didier is concerned, other clubs can do whatever they wish but it would be up to us as to whether he departs. At this moment in time, I would say certainly not. No-one else will be leaving the club.

"Carlo's gone to play football. He's been a fantastic servant. He's a smashing guy who's always been great around the place but we have the No 1 goalkeeper in the world in Petr Cech. Carlo is in magnificent condition. His contract was up at the end of the season and they will get some good years out of him because he's extremely fit and a great professional.

"We are looking at all angles at the moment, as far as bringing a goalkeeper in is concerned, but we're no closer than we were a couple of days ago. It's always difficult to bring any player in because we're looking for a certain type of quality but we'll keep looking."

Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel is back in the squad for tomorrow's game despite a drink-driving charge on Saturday. He was arrested at 5.30am near Chelsea's ground and will appear in court on 3 April. Obi was suspended for their FA Cup win over Ipswich last Saturday, and Wilkins added: "John recognises the fact he's acted irresponsibly and we'll deal with that in house."