Champions League

Drogba on course for Barca

2012-04-22 08:51
Didier Drogba (AP)

London - Roberto Di Matteo is increasingly confident Didier Drogba will win his fitness battle and face Barcelona next week.

The Chelsea striker has a knee problem and was left out of the squad that held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

But after Drogba's match-winning goal in the Champions League semi-final first leg victory against Barcelona last week, Di Matteo is anxious to have the Ivorian back in his side for the Camp Nou return.

"We'll have to assess the players tomorrow. He has an injury on his knee, so it's whether the progression on this injury will be quick enough," the interim Chelsea first team coach said.

Di Matteo made eight changes for his side's third game in six days following the Barcelona clash and the FA Cup semi-final victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

"We're happy with the point away at the Emirates having played our third game in less than six days," he said.

"It was a brilliant performance from this team. It's a shame we missed the quality a bit in the final pass because we were in good positions sometimes.

"It wasn't really a question of resting players. It was about selecting a team that could win this game against Arsenal: three games in less than six days, two semi-finals and an away game at Arsenal, a crazy schedule.

"It wouldn't have been possible to play the same players again to win this game."

The draw meant Chelsea failed to take the opportunity to move into the top four.

But Di Matteo insisted: "I think it's a point gained for us towards that fourth spot."

And he added: "We have three home games and one away, so we'll hope to make up some points.

"It was always going to be difficult from the first day, qualifying for fourth place, but we're still in the running and we'll fight until the last day of the season to see if we can get in there."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was left frustrated at his side's inability to clinch the victory that would have strengthened their bid to secure third place.

And he admitted the effects of a long season are catching up on Robin van Persie who has now failed to score from open play in six games.

Wenger said: "It was his 50th game today. I think he gave absolutely everything.

"He was unlucky in the first half, with a free-kick that was deflected, then he rushed his decision making a bit when he was through on his right foot.

"But it wasn't easy for him. He was completely on his own at some stage, with not enough support.

"As well, he was given offside once when I don't think he was. I think it was a penalty (when Van Persie was fouled by Gary Cahill late on). But we've got zero penalties at home this season."

Arsenal winger Theo Walcott was forced out of the game with a hamstring problem which Wenger believes will keep the player out for the rest of the season.

He is confident, however, Walcott will be fit to join the England squad for the this summer's EURO 2012 finals.

Wenger said: "It looks a serious hamstring injury. We assessed the hamstring but he wanted to stay on the pitch. I think he should have come off straight away because the second time it was a real hamstring.

"For him, it'll be tough to come back until the end of the season. It'll be 21 days. Minimum.

"He should be okay to play for England. He'll just have a good rest. Suddenly you're favourites to win the European Championships. I don't think he will play for us again this season."

Read more on:    chelsea  |  champions league  |  didier drogba  |  soccer


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