CHELSEA are confident of avoiding a major tactical reshuffle for tomorrow’s Champions League quarter-final decider against Liverpool by having Michael Essien available for selection.
The Ghanaian was a notable omission from last weekend’s 4-3 win over Bolton, although it is understood that the decision was nothing more than a precautionary measure by Guus Hiddink. The Dutchman is anxious to avoid Essien putting too much strain on his knee, having only just returned from six months out with serious ligament damage.
Hiddink’s fitness staff will monitor Essien when he reports for today’s training session at Stamford Bridge, but the 26-year-old is expected to once again take up man-marking duties on Steven Gerrard for tomorrow’s game.
Jose Bosingwa was also absent from the meeting with Bolton as he struggles to shake off a hamstring injury. He will be assessed today but is considered less likely to feature.
Meanwhile, Michael Ballack has become the latest Chelsea player to call on Hiddink to stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of the season. Ballack has joined several of Chelsea’s other senior players, including Petr Cech and John Terry, in pleading for Hiddink to stay on. “Of course we would like him to stay,” he said. “It’s amazing what he has done in this short period. His input to the games and to every player is great. We look very strong at the moment and we would be disappointed if he left now.”
Terry, for his part, suggested “talks were ongoing” between Hiddink and Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner. “If we keep progressing there’s only going to be one option,” he said.
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