Grant eyes reinforcements as injuries mount

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The Independent Online

Chelsea are planning to buy "three or four" players in the January transfer window, Avram Grant said yesterday. Injuries have hit hard, again, with the Chelsea manager confirming that goalkeeper Petr Cech, the latest casualty, with a torn calf muscle sustained in the midweek Champions League tie away to Schalke, is out for four weeks.

Serious concerns also persist about the fitness of Michael Ballack. The midfielder is still recovering from the ankle problem he first suffered in April. Despite having trained twice with the first-team squad in the past few days his comeback is estimated at being "if nothing else happens, in four or five weeks".

"It's not far for a player who hasn't trained or played for eight months," Grant maintained of the 31-year-old German. He is also missing Paulo Ferreira, who is a month away from recovering from an ankle injury, and, of course, John Terry. "We need to take care of him. John is a special guy. He wants to play, even now he wants to play. But he can't," Grant said. He hopes that situation will reverse itself in a fortnight.

Ashley Cole is fit after damaging his ankle on England duty, although Grant appears reluctant to commit the left-back for tomorrow's visit of Everton. "He's available," he said, "but of course after a bad injury it's best to train."

It adds up to a trying time for Grant who has acquitted himself well, so far, to his elevation as Jose Mourinho's successor and can boast a record of eight victories from 11 games and just one defeat – in his first match away to Manchester United. Grant brushed off yet another questioning of his credentials – having never previously managed outside Israel at a senior level – by saying: "I've coached since I was 18 and a half so I know what good football is. Maybe for some people it's a surprise but it's a good surprise, no? In the league, in the last three games, we played to a very high-quality. Not one team, including Man United and Arsenal, played better than us."

Grant – quite why the "half" is relevant points at his sensitivity – has been careful not to criticise Mourinho but there has also been a steady drip-drip of information comparing him favourably with the self-styled Special One.

With Chelsea set to lose Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou to the African Nations Cup in January it is clear where Grant's priorities will lie in the transfer market while the unconvincing displays of Juliano Belletti at right-back mean another defender is also required. Grant visited Russia two weeks ago to watch the Lokomotiv Moscow pair of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov – a Russian midfielder – and Branislav Ivanovic – a Serbian utility player and right-back – and a bid of £20m for the pair has been mooted.

A move for the Brazilian Lulinha, a striker with Corinthians, is also likely although he is regarded as one for the future. The 17-year-old, who has been watched several times by scouts, would cost £8m with Chelsea sources insisting the impetus is coming from Brazil. "Since I have been at Chelsea someone told me that they've mentioned about 145 players," Grant said yesterday. "We will buy no more than three or four."

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