Petr Cech is set to miss Chelsea’s final Champions League group game against APOEL tomorrow – but not because of his free-kick blunder against Manchester City.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti yesterday defended the Czech Republic goalkeeper despite his poor positioning as Carlos Tevez scored a 25-yard free-kick winner at Eastlands on Saturday.
But it is understood Cech, who did not train with the rest of the Chelsea squad yesterday, will not be in the starting line-up against the Cypriot side at Stamford Bridge.
Ancelotti, however, was quick to make it clear he is happy with the player’s form.
“This season, I think Cech has done very well,” said Ancelotti. “I like him. He takes the responsibility and likes to come out and catch the ball in the box.
“He could do better if you ask me about the free-kick on Saturday.
“I think the goalkeeper has to stay on his post and the player has to put the ball over the wall and in. Even a good goalkeeper can make a mistake sometimes but Petr has been doing very well this season.”
After two defeats and three penalty misses inside four days last week, it was somewhat predictable the focus would be on certain individuals.
The Italian coach was also quick to jump to the defence of England midfielder Frank Lampard, who failed to score from the penalty spot for the first time since September 2006 when Shay Given saved his 83rd-minute attempt.
Ancelotti said: “I can say that, at our training ground, Lampard is the player who practises penalties more than any other player.”
Ghana midfielder Michael Essien was also quick to follow Ancelotti in defending both teammates.
“There are 11 players on the pitch,” said Essien. “Everyone should take the blame, not only Petr. If we had done our defensive work, we would not have conceded. There is no blame.
“Frank is a very strong guy, very strong mentally. These things happen. Anyone can miss a penalty. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last. He’s our best penalty-taker at this club.”
Essien will leave the Blues to take part in the African Nations Cup between January 10-31 and admits it could leave him with a club-versus-country dilemma.
Ghana have the right to call up the midfielder two weeks prior to the start of the tournament, meaning he may miss more than four games for the Blues, who are facing the same situation with Ivory Coast duo Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba and Nigeria’s John Mikel Obi.
Essien plans to leave the discussions to Chelsea and the Ghana Football Association.
“If I have to leave, there’s nothing I can do,” said Essien. “It’s always difficult when it comes to this situation. The club have a good relationship with the (Ghana) FA and I’ll leave that to them and just focus on what I’m doing.”