Injury crisis for Chelsea

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The Independent Online
Even without the Wise factor, Chelsea's preparation for tonight's Cup-Winners Cup quarter-final second leg with Club Bruges was anything but straightforward, writes Trevor Haylett. Before the game that is crucial to rescue their season of domestic disappointment, and now disgrace, the injury list had grown into double figures.

A full-strength line-up would still leave Chelsea as underdogs against Belgian visitors who possess a solid European pedigree. For a side struggling to score at Stamford Bridge, let alone win, a 1-0 deficit is a tall order.

The situation became so bad over the weekend that Glen Hoddle chose yesterday not to stage a normal training session in fear of collecting more injuries. Nigel Spackman and Scott Minto had a 30-minute run-out, their first for a week after going down with viral infections, and while it will be a gamble to play them, the manager might be left with no choice.

Apart from Wise, the list of wounded include Kharin, Kjeldbjerg, Sinclair, Myers, Newton, Spencer and Hoddle himself. Of those, most, the manager was forced to admit, were definitely out. In addition, the flu bug claimed another victim in David Hopkin yesterday.

Nevertheless, the English footballer being a naturally optimistic animal, and with a pressing need to raise the spirits of a depressed dressing- room - Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Leeds was the 10th successive home League game they have failed to win - Hoddle believes there is room for hope.

"When the chips are down we seem to roll up our sleeves and show the spirit and character that will be required," he said. "For that reason I am confident we will go through, although I know it will be a hard game."

Bruges are a big, physical side, yet they demonstrated enough skill a fortnight ago to suggest that the switch to an improved playing surface will suit them more than their English challengers.

"We think there are positions where we can get at them," Hoddle said. "The problem is that with so many injuries we have not been able to work on things on the training field, only on the blackboard."

The 37-year-old youth coach, Graham Rix, will once again lend his experience from the bench, as will Alan Judge, the former Oxford goalkeeper, although after the day Chelsea have just experienced presumably they will not want to rely too much on someone of that name.

n Auxerre will be without Philippe Violeau for their Cup-Winners' Cup quarter-final second leg against Arsenal on Thursday. The midfielder broke a bone and tore ligaments in his ankle in Friday's 1-1 draw at St Etienne and will miss the rest of the season. He is replaced by the Algerian international Moussa Saib.

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