Hoddle's preparations anger hosts

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The tactical nuances of Chelsea's game plan here tonight hardly got a look-in yesterday as the big match build-up concentrated instead on the trickery likely to be on display in La Romereda stadium. Not the kind once associated with Glenn Hoddle, or even Nayim on one of his better days for Tottenham, but tricks of a less appealing nature. Dirty tricks.

The Spanish have eagerly seized upon Hoddle's instructions in training to turn up the temperature before the CupWinner's Cup semi-final first- leg tie. The Chelsea manager has insisted his players indulge in a show of shirt-pulling and injury-feigning over the last few days to prepare themselves for the intimidation the English visitors expect when they confront Latin temperaments.

Zaragoza are a physical team and have the worst disciplinary record in Spain, with 102 cautions and 15 sendings off in 37 games this season. The hosts have taken exception to his remarks and local journalists were quick to call Hoddle to account yesterday.

He claimed he was the victim of misinterpretation - the fault of creative headline writers rather than the language barriers - and turned back the clock to play his way out of defence with smooth control and a neat pass.

"I never said that Zaragoza were a dirty team, but with 11 players on yellow cards it suggests they can be physical," Hoddle explained. "That is not a problem. In England we are used to a physical contest."

The passionate Spanish supporters who have telephoned complaints to the radio station here will be able to broadcast their views personally when the hostilities begin for real tonight.

With the seating pushed up close to the touchlines it was always going to be a fierce occasion. Victor Fernandez, the Zaragoza coach, said his team used the same tricks "as do all players" whether from England, Germany or South America.

Nayim, the inconsistent midfielder who had four seasons at Tottenham under Terry Venables, expects to be among the starting opposition who, unlike any of the sides dealt with by Chelsea in earlier rounds, are blessed with several players possessing superior technique.

Their leading scorer, the Argentinian Juan Esnaider, combines a potent mixture of goal scoring ability with an abrasive mentality, and has been dismissed twice this season.

Hoddle has expressed his admiration for Zaragoza's midfield craftsmen and, with another strategy based on survival, will attempt to counter them with forces who owe more to running and ball-winning skills.

Precicely who he will employ Hoddle was not saying, and guessing games amongst close observers of Chelsea failed to find much agreement.

It is complicated by fitness tests today for Gavin Peacock and Andy Myers, as well as the goalkeeping choice between Kevin Hitchcock, the Englishman who let in a soft goal at the weekend, and Dimitri Kharin, the Russian international, plus the availability of Jakob Kjeldbjerg as well as the stipulations on foreigners.

It is Chelsea's hope that from this pot, and against a background of mounting relegation concerns, Hoddle can once again concoct a winning formula over the two legs.

Chelsea (probable): Hitchcock; Clarke, Johnsen, Sinclair, Minto, Burley, Spackman, Rocastle, Peacock, Myers, Furlong.

Real Zaragoza (probable): Juanmi; Belsue, Caceres, Aguado, Solana, Poyet, Aragon, Nayim, Higuera, Esnaider, Pardeza.