Gudjohnsen's time to shine

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Claudio Ranieri has challenged Eidur Gudjohnsen to shoulder the goalscorer's burden in Chelsea's Uefa Cup first-round tie against Levski Sofia.

With Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink suspended for both legs, Gudjohnsen has been given a rare chance. He will make his first start of the season tonight at Stamford Bridge, having so far appeared for only the final three minutes as a substitute at Tottenham last Sunday.

While Hasselbaink is due to attend an appeal hearing tomorrow over his recent red card against Arsenal, he could miss Chelsea's next five games if he fails to overturn the dismissal.

In the meantime Chelsea will rely on the 23-year-old Gudjohnsen and Gianfranco Zola, with this tie one they cannot afford to lose. Last season the club were dealt a blow when they were knocked out of the first round by Swiss side St Gallen just after the sacking of Gianluca Vialli. Ranieri fears no such fate this time, although he does have an injury worry over the captain, Marcel Desailly, who has a "50-50" chance to be fit.

Only last week Ranieri described Gudjohnsen as the "future of Chelsea". Ranieri said: "He is a big man and a good player. I believe in him, and he deserves to play in all the games."

Ranieri's belief in the strength of his squad will certainly be tested, especially if Desailly – who has ankle and groin problems – fails a fitness test, with William Gallas on stand-by. Definitely ruled out are the injured Mario Stanic, Mikael Forssell and Winston Bogarde, while Hasselbaink and Celestine Babayaro are both suspended.