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Depleted Chelsea feel the strain
Updated: 2005-02-23 09:11

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is relying on barely fit Didier Drogba to supply goals against Barcelona on Wednesday after being deprived of the two wingers he has built his Premier League-leading side around.

Injuries to Arjen Robben and Damien Duff mean Mourinho, attempting to retain the Champions League title he won with Porto last season, has had to change Chelsea's system for the first leg of the first knockout stage.

In a departure from tradition the outspoken Mourinho also named his side a day early and suggested the line-up Barcelona counterpart Frank Rijkaard would put out.

"We've had to change because of the players I don't have," Mourinho told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Normally we would have Robben and Duff as wingers but I have to change the way we play and use Drogba and (Eidur) Gudjohnsen", he said, suggesting a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation.

Rijkaard declined to confirm the players Mourinho picked for him and said the Portuguese coach, a former assistant at the Nou Camp, was feeling the strain.

"It's a sign they are not at ease with the match to come," the Dutchman said, adding he was surprised Mourinho had named the Chelsea team.

"It's something you don't see that often. But before a match you can say a lot of things but you have to play the game."


Drogba has been out of action for a month with a thigh strain, Robben broke his foot two weeks ago and Duff hurt his knee in Chelsea's 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Newcastle on Sunday.

Left back Wayne Bridge broke his ankle on Sunday and Mourinho said William Gallas, who also received a knock in that game, would deputise for him.

"You can't do anything about injuries," Mourinho said. "Of course we would have more solutions if we had everybody but we can't complain about it. We still have good players.

"We must think positively and we must remember this is a game of 180 minutes. We know that in London it will not be easy for them."

The return leg is at Stamford Bridge on March 8 and Duff, though not Robben, should be fit for that game.

Barcelona's Brazilian-born Portuguese midfielder Deco, who was a key player in Mourinho's success at Porto, said it would be foolish to underestimate the London side with or without wingers.

"No matter who is missing Chelsea still have good players, they have a strong defence and they will be dangerous in attack," Deco said. "We have to exploit our own abilities."

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