Scolari shrugs off injury woes

Luiz Felipe Scolari has insisted Chelsea's squad is big enough to mount a title challenge, although he admitted his prayers were answered when fears over Didier Drogba's injury were eased.

Scolari wanted to work with a squad of 24 players maximum, leading to the likes of Andriy Shevchenko and Shaun Wright-Phillips leaving Stamford Bridge in the summer.

But with Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien out of action, along with the failure to land Robinho from Real Madrid, Scolari's squad has been stretched already.

Chelsea's injury curse looked to have struck again when Drogba was carried off against CFR Cluj this week, although the striker is now expected to spend only a month out.

"I am religious," Scolari said. "I prayed for this and sometimes God helps me.

"Maximum one month and he could be ready to play, it is very good for us.

"I looked at his face and he was happy because we were afraid at the first moment - we were more afraid than Didier himself."

The other good news for the Chelsea boss is minor knocks that have prevented Ashley Cole and Alex from training are not serious and they are in contention for the clash against Aston Villa this weekend at Stamford Bridge.

Skipper John Terry has also been carrying a back complaint, but Scolari said: "I asked him about his problem and he said it had finished. He said he will train and play, maybe with one leg but he wants to play. He is our captain and wants to show this to our players."

Chelsea players themselves have described the current situation as being "thin on the ground", although Scolari would not want to work with a huge squad.

"To have 23 or 24 players is very good for one squad," said the Brazilian. "How can a coach work with 34 players? It is incredible. When I arrived here there were 34 players and I have never wanted to work with that many - 23, 24 or 25 maximum.

"I don't know what will happen in January. Maybe I will have two or three more injuries. Maybe some teams want my players, but I don't think about January.

"I am satisfied with my players. Anelka has made 10 goals this season, Joe Cole four, Salomon Kalou four, Florent Malouda two, (Franco) Di Santo two.

"I am not afraid because of Didier's injury because I believe in these players."

Scolari is still wary, though, of the threat Villa will pose to Chelsea's amazing unbeaten home record in the Premier League.

It will be the first time he has met Villa boss Martin O'Neill, with the pair both in the running for the England job before it was eventually given to Steve McClaren.

"It is a chance for me to talk to Martin and say that I appreciate his job and his team. But we need to win," Scolari said.

"I think he is a very, very good coach. All the teams he has trained play well and I like his style - he fights for his team.

"I asked players about him and they had good words. It will be a pleasure to say to him afterwards that I like him and his style.

"They have been fantastic, they have one less point than us so it is a big game. We respect them and more, we have looked at many DVDs of them. We remember last season it was 4-4."

One of the reasons for Scolari not taking the England post was reported to be the intrusive media he would be faced with, although he has had no complaints since arriving at Chelsea.

"When I arrived here I was afraid of the media, but not now," he said. "You know me, you ask me and you write about how you see my team. Sometimes the media in other countries are difficult."

When shown a picture of Joe Kinnear following the interim Newcastle coach's foul-mouthed blast of his critics in the press, Scolari added: "He is a coach? I don't know him. I am a man of peace."

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