Final Fling

Chelsea, with a dismal home run lately, take on CFR Cluj in a do-or-die clash at Stamford Bridge; AS Roma lock horns against Bordeaux in a winner-takes-all tie

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LONDON: Luiz Felipe Scolari insists there is no chance of Chelsea slipping in Tuesday’s do-or-die Champions League clash against CFR Cluj.

Scolari’s side need to beat the Romanian minnows at Stamford Bridge in their final Group A match to guarantee a place in the knockout stage. A draw could also be enough to advance if Bordeaux fail to take maximum points from their match against Roma, but Scolari is convinced the Blues will take care of business themselves against the team from Transylvania.

“Is it unthinkable that Chelsea go out? Well, I don’t think any people in the world are thinking about this, but it is possible because we have given this opportunity to other teams,” Scolari said.

“I don’t think about going out because I believe in these players. But we need to play better than we have so far if we want to go on.”

After a series of disappointing results over the last month, Scolari badly needed Saturday’s 2-0 win over Bolton to ease the tension going into the Cluj match. Although reports that John Terry and Frank Lampard have complained to Scolari about his training methods were dismissed by assistant coach Ray Wilkins, the team is clearly still finding its feet under the Brazilian.

Home defeats to Arsenal, Liverpool and Burnley, as well as lacklustre displays away from home in Europe have raised questions about Scolari’s ability to combine the eye-catching play that is the trademark of his teams, with the ruthless nature of previous Chelsea sides.

A lack of cutting edge has been crucial to Chelsea’s failings recently so Scolari must have been relieved to see Nicolas Anelka back on goal-scoring form at Bolton.
Anelka’s 15th goal of the campaign was a simple enough effort, but Wilkins knows the France striker’s predatory instincts are getting sharper by the game.

“He has a coldness in front of goal. When he is one-on-one, he is lethal, with his goal against Bolton a fabulous one,” Wilkins said. “But he has been doing that all season. He has been absolutely top drawer, in particular with his work ethic. Without Didier (Drogba), that is what we have required from Nic, and he has taken up the mantle in a first-class way.”

Despite Anelka’s form and Scolari’s confidence, Chelsea would be wise not to underestimate Cluj, who have already held the Blues to a goalless draw and beaten Roma in Italy.

Their task isn’t helped by Lampard’s absence through suspension after his red card in the draw with Bordeaux, although Joe Cole could be back from injury.
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