Drogba diagnosed with malaria – but is still 'fit' to face Fulham

Didier Drogba plays tonight for Chelsea against local rivals Fulham despite undergoing treatment for malaria, which the club believe he could have been carrying for months.

Blood tests revealed on Monday night that Drogba's "mystery virus" was far more serious than had first been feared. The 32-year-old has been suffering from headaches and high temperatures off and on for the past month, but it was only this week that it was confirmed he has malaria and he immediately started an intense, 48-hour course of medication.

Chelsea have been told the Ivory Coast striker could have picked up the disease as long ago as January, when he went away to Angola on international duty for the Africa Cup of Nations, and the condition could have remained dormant ever since.

Drogba was not fit to start against Liverpool on Sunday, although he came off the bench to play the second half of Chelsea's 2-0 defeat. Last Wednesday he managed 76 minutes of the 4-1 Champions League victory over Spartak Moscow before he was replaced by Daniel Sturridge.

The Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, yesterday paid tribute to Drogba's spirit in playing even though he has been way below his best. Ancelotti said: "Didier was, for this month, having difficulty to train. He didn't feel good. He didn't have power to train or ability to train. I think he lost some condition. He was unselfish to play and, also, when he was not at 100 per cent. Now he has the possibility to improve his condition without a problem. He will play tomorrow."

Malaria can be a very debilitating disease but Ancelotti is confident the talismanic striker, who scored 37 goals in all competitions for the club last season, will return as strong as ever. "It was serious once. Now it's a bit different and you can treat it very well and move on very quickly," Ancelotti said.

Drogba's illness highlights how much thinner Chelsea's squad is this season, after the decision in the summer to release senior professionals such as Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho, Juliano Belletti and Deco. Frank Lampard has missed the past two months with a groin injury, although he seems to be finally coming close to a return to the side, with Ancelotti pinning his hopes on a comeback against Sunderland on Sunday.

The club have also missed Michael Essien, who had a toe injury, in their last two games, while the defender Alex and striker Nicolas Anelka are serious doubts to face Fulham tonight. The injury problems were compounded when summer signing Yossi Benayoun was ruled out for most of the season with a torn Achilles.

Ancelotti claimed yesterday his squad was strong enough to cope, and said he had no plans to strengthen it in the January transfer window. "We are not thinking about buying new players in January," he said. "We are able to maintain the players fit and without injury. Sometimes it can happen. We started very well this season without certain players. Without important players, we've shown good football and achieved good results."

On Sunday Liverpool's Fernando Torres, who was a Chelsea transfer target last summer, scored twice to inflict the champions' second defeat of the season. However, Ancelotti said he is happy with Drogba rather than Torres. "When you have Drogba and Anelka, it's difficult to think about Torres," he said. "The day that Drogba will not be able to play and maintain this level of condition, we can think about buying another striker like Torres. But when Drogba is not able, Torres will be old."

If Lampard plays against Sunderland Ancelotti will be happy for the midfielder to join up with the England squad, should he be selected by manager Fabio Capello for the friendly with France next week.

"If he's available to play with us, he'll be available to play for England," Ancelotti said. "Capello must decide, but we don't have a problem if he's available for the Sunderland game for him to play with the national team. He's training with us. He's comfortable, good and fit. He's worked very hard, physically. He's 100 per cent. He just has to be comfortable to play with the ball and his team-mates."

Fulham's regular full-backs Carlos Salcido (ankle) and Chris Baird (thigh) will miss the game.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?