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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 22, 2006

Drogba and Ballack should be fit for United

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was delighted to have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League but even more relieved that striker Didier Drogba and midfielder Michael Ballack should be fit enough to face Manchester United on Sunday.

Drogba and Ballack both collected injuries as Chelsea slumped to their first defeat of the season in the competition, losing 1-0 in Germany thanks to a 27th-minute header from Werder Bremen defender Per Mertesacker.

Drogba hurt his ankle after falling awkwardly from a challenge by Naldo and Ballack suffered studmarks on his calf following a scything tackle from Pierre Wome.

But Mourinho said: 'Ballack's injury is nothing special. It is just pain.

'The opposing player put his studs on his muscle and it is just painful.

'Didier is the same. He has a pain in the ankle but it is nothing serious. Normally, he will be fit enough for Sunday.''

Mourinho was unhappy with the defeat but his manner was tempered by the knowledge that victory over Levski Sofia in their final game at Stamford Bridge will see them reach the last 16 of the competition as Group A winners, with their head-to-head record against Bremen already sealing their progress.

But that still did not stop the Portuguese coach from admitting that his side missed the driving force of suspended England international midfielder Frank Lampard.

Mourinho added: 'Ballack did not have a good game. I think our midfield missed Frank Lampard because he is responsible for the first phase of the game.

'Lampard is important because he affects the performances of everybody else in that department.

'We did not have enough power in attack in the last 20 minutes because we lost Drogba through injury.

'A draw would probably have been a fair result but I accept that Bremen fought very hard to get three points.

'I am never happy with a defeat but this is different because we have still qualified for the second stage of the competition.

'But to go into the last game of the group stage having already qualified is an achievement. That is very important.''

But Mourinho insisted that the defeat would have no bearing on Sunday's showdown with United at Old Trafford.

Mourinho added: 'Sunday is a different competition. We have 40 matches to play over 10 months. It is a match we look forward to and we want to play. But this game has no bearing on that match.''

Mourinho was also critical of the events which led up to the winning goal for Bremen.

The German side were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Torsten Frings when there was clearly no contact with the midfielder by a Chelsea player.

Bremen went on to win the corner from which Mertesacker headed the decisive goal.

Mourinho added: 'We knew it would be difficult at set plays with the height in their side.

'The free-kick was a funny situation because it looked like somebody pushed Frings but nobody did. The linesman did not give a free-kick but the referee, who was 30 metres away, decides to give a free-kick.

'But that is life, especially my life since I won the competition, I've not had the luck with decisions.''

Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf is now looking forward to a showdown clash with Barcelona to decide who joins Chelsea in the next phase.

He said: 'We played a great game against Chelsea. We kept them out of the penalty area and that gave us strength for the rest of the game.

'We had a good start and we fought for 90 minutes. Chelsea are a very strong side, one on one, but we matched them.''

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