Hasselbaink pleads for role in Chelsea's comeback mission

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The Independent Football

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink last night sought to reassure Claudio Ranieri that, despite a month without a goal, his self-belief remains intact.

Hasselbaink urged Ranieri to select him ahead of Hernan Crespo for tomorrow's Champions' League semi-final second leg against Monaco at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea need to score at least twice to overturn a 3-1 first-leg defeat.

Confidence underpins the goalscorer's art and a manager like Ranieri is bound to consider it when choosing which of his stable of strikers to deploy. Having missed a crucial opportunity having come on as substitute in Monaco, and dallied when presented with a chance against Southampton at the weekend, Hasselbaink's could easily have dipped.

That, he insisted, was not the case. "If I do not play it will be very hard on me," he said. "The most important thing is that we need to score goals and I have shown this season that is what I do best. I'm not criticising my team-mates. I am just talking facts. My goals are like a business card.

"I believe that this game could be my match of the season and it would be an enormous blow not to be given the chance of helping Chelsea reach the Champions' League final."

In Monaco, Crespo scored - as he had promised - but Hasselbaink is Chelsea's leading scorer this season with 17 goals and created two of the four Chelsea scored against Southampton at the weekend. He has also scored 57 goals in 81 games at Stamford Bridge.

The Dutchman added: "We should never have lost in Monaco. The match was ours and we were in control, but somehow, with only 10 players, they went on to beat us. We played badly in the second part but the team have spent a lot of time reflecting on that and thinking about the return leg.

"Monaco have demonstrated in this Champions' League against Deportivo La Coruña, Real Madrid and ourselves that they are a quality side. Fernando Morientes is a good striker, but sincerely I do not consider myself inferior to him. In the Spanish League for Atletico Madrid I demonstrated that I am able to make goals in the best leagues in the world."

Hasselbaink, who has scored more than 200 career goals, played in Spain in the 1999-2000 season, after leaving Leeds United. He scored more than 35 goals in all competitions to finish top scorer well ahead of Raul, Patrick Kluivert, Roy Makaay and Morientes. His 24 League goals came despite Atletico being relegated.

The Madrid team had begun that season with Ranieri as manager and players including Santiago Solari, now at Real Madrid, Ruben Baraja, now at Valencia, Jose Chamot, later of Milan, Carlos Gamarra, Paraguay's captain, and three players now with fellow Champions' League semi-finalists Deportivo La Coruña, Juan Carlos Valeron, Juan Capdevila and Jose Molina. Despite this array of talent Atletico were relegated for the first time in 66 years - the club being destabilised by the jailing of their owner-president, Jesus Gil, and sacking, by the administrators, of Ranieri. Through all this Hasselbaink kept scoring goals.

Though now 32 he is, unsurprisingly, still in demand. "I have several propositions from clubs for me," he said, "but Wednesday is the key day for many questions to be answered." Hasselbaink added: "It is possible to say that we have failed this season if we do not reach the final of the Champions' League because we have a great team."

While the choice between Hasselbaink or Crespo to partner Eidur Gudjohnsen is Ranieri's alone he must consult medical opinion when deciding his midfield and defence. The Chelsea manager is still waiting for Scott Parker and William Gallas to prove their fitness after suffering hamstring injuries. If Parker fails to convince Ranieri and the medical staff Chelsea will start with Geremi and Frank Lampard in central midfield - Claude Makelele is suspended. Gallas is required to replace the suspended Marcel Desailly in central defence. "It is important William is fit," said Ranieri. "We will need his speed against [Ludovic] Guily."

Monaco beat Nice 2-1 on Friday night to close the gap on Lyons at the top of Ligue 1. Victory came at a cost with both Jerome Rothen and Dado Prso doubtful for tomorrow after picking up injuries. Edouard Cissé, once of West Ham, is likely to replace the suspended Andreas Zikos.

"I thought Monaco were brilliant in the first leg," said Joe Cole, the Chelsea midfielder. "Everything worked for them in that game. They've got some great players but it will be hard for them to reproduce it because that sort of performance only comes along once in a season."

Cole, who is expected to start, added: "If we're on our game we can beat them. We know that, and we can only play better than we did in the second half out there."

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