Mourinho stays quiet on Crespo's rare start

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The Independent Football

Hernan Crespo will get the chance to oust Didier Drogba from the main striker's role at Chelsea when he faces Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge today.

The Argentinian who scored his country's first goal in their 3-2 defeat by England in Geneva last week, trained with the first team squad at Cobham yesterday following his return from international duty. The striker, who is believed to be unsettled at Chelsea, partly because of personal problems and partly because he has played so little, had missed both of Chelsea's 1-0 defeats by Real Betis in the Champions' League and Manchester United in the Premiership, apparently because of a hamstring problem.

However, there has been speculation that Crespo could leave the club in the January transfer window.

After playing against England, Crespo sat out Argentina's match with Qatar in order to ensure that he would be fully fit to face Graeme Souness's side. Drogba misses out through suspension after collecting five yellow cards.

Much of the speculation surrounding the South American was sparked by England Under-21 striker Carlton Cole, who is almost certain to be on the bench against Newcastle. Cole hinted that Crespo was unhappy at Stamford Bridge and his comments forced the Argentinian's hand.

"I will stay," Crespo said. "When I came back three months ago, I signed a new contract for one more year. So why do I need to change something after three months? I have shown that when I have an opportunity to do something in Chelsea, I am ready.

"But the season is long. If I don't have a lot of minutes now, I don't have a problem. Normally I need to play more but I don't have problems with anybody." The 30-year-old has made only five starts in the Premiership and played just 59 minutes in the Champions' League.

The manager Jose Mourinho was saying nothing on the matter. Having been infuriated by newspaper articles claiming the club's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich had ordered an inquest into the team's recent dip in form, he cancelled his usual pre-match press conference yesterday.

His counterpart Souness is not fooled by Chelsea's supposed dip in form and believes the "Special One's" charges must be treated with caution today.

"Chelsea lost the last game they played and for me when this happens to any team it makes them a dangerous animal," Souness said. "They are sitting nicely at the top of the Premier ship and going along very nicely in the Champions' League so they cannot be doing that much wrong. We are playing against a team that is successful and used to winning, a team that has had a bit of criticism of late and all those things make them dangerous.

"When you are used to winning, when you lose a game it makes you doubly determined not to lose again. That is one of the ingredients of being a top player." Souness will be without his captain Alan Shearer following a hernia operation leaving England striker Michael Owen to lead the Newcastle attack.

"What we are hoping for is that they have a hangover, we are resilient and one of our special players can do something on the day," Souness added.

Meanwhile, Chelsea officials are set to begin formal talks with Hibernian about a link-up between both clubs which would give them access to the Edinburgh side's successful youth system.