Luiz Felipe Scolari will not pick an experimental team of Chelsea academy players to face Burnley in the Carling Cup tomorrow because he has been told by his senior players that they want to play in and win the competition. Unlike Arsenal and Manchester United, Scolari knows that many of his biggest names want the chance of winning the Carling Cup for a third time in five years.
The Carling Cup has been used by Arsène Wenger, in particular, to blood young players and the Arsenal manager said yesterday he will do the same against Wigan tonight. However, despite spending millions over the last three years on teenage players recommended by chief scout and director of youth development Frank Arnesen, Chelsea will not be showcasing them in the Carling Cup.
Chelsea's senior players feel that their three recent appearances in Carling Cup finals (2005, 2007 and 2008) have been among the most memorable games since Roman Abramovich's arrival. As a result they are unwilling to stand aside. Scolari is expected to involve fringe players from the first-team squad at home to Burnley but that is more likely to be those such as Carlo Cudicini, Paulo Ferreira and Branislav Ivanovic. Scott Sinclair, one of the few academy-produced players to get a look-in with the Chelsea first team, should also feature.
Peter Kenyon, the Chelsea chief executive, was at pains yesterday to play down the effect of the "credit crunch" on Abramovich's willingness to fund Chelsea. With Arnesen admitting last week that he had been told to apply the "financial brakes" by the Russian, Kenyon said that he had no reason to doubt the billionaire's dedication to Chelsea.
Kenyon said: "I am not going to talk about Roman's situation specifically. But what I can confirm is his ongoing commitment to Chelsea. It's no less now than it was. He has always supported our business objectives of being self-funding, as well as our sporting objectives.
"The financial crisis has affected everybody who has shares, property or a pension, nobody has been immune, and neither is football. There is less money than before. We are keeping a close eye on our costs and reining back in other areas to put the business in better shape."
The cuts made to Arnesen's scouting network had been done because of what Kenyon said was a "restructuring". He claimed that Chelsea were still in a position to "break even" by 2010 despite having been funded by Abramovich to the tune of £578m over the last five years. Nevertheless Kenyon, speaking at a Fifa conference in Zurich, said that "Felipe is on board" with Chelsea's intention not to buy during the January transfer window unless the club sold first.
"A lot of people misunderstand debt," Kenyon said. "Chelsea are not in the same position as other clubs. We pay no interest on our debt as we have no external debt. Our 'debt', such as it is, is to the owner. This can be turned into equity. I think our financial structure does give us some competitive advantage."
Kenyon said the club are also no closer to finalising plans to move away from Stamford Bridge despite reports that they would be relocating to a new site next to Battersea power station. Ideally Chelsea would like to build a new tier at Stamford Bridge, which would be feasible. They are prevented from doing so by safety guidelines which dictate there must be more than one major exit route from the stadium – which empties only on to Fulham Broadway.