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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 5, 2006

Bridge bullish ahead first Blues start in a month

Chelsea and England defender Wayne Bridge insists he has every chance of becoming the club's first-choice left-back despite Ashley Cole's dominance at Stamford Bridge.

Bridge will play against Levski Sofia in Chelsea's final Champions League Group A game at Stamford Bridge tonight convinced that he is in an 'even' fight for the full-back berth.

The former Southampton defender recently signed a new four-year contract with the Barclays Premiership champions even though he has made just eight appearances in all competitions for the Blues so far this season.

Bridge was given an assurance by coach Jose Mourinho that he would be involved in an even battle with Cole for the left-back role, following the former Arsenal player's summer arrival.

Mourinho's word was good enough for him to pledge his long-term future to the club.

Bridge, who is also understudy to Cole at international level with England, declared: 'It was difficult when Ashley turned up. He is a great player but I see it as an even affair.

'They have given me the chance to sign a new contract and hopefully I will get more opportunities to play and it will be an even fight for the place.

'I spoke to Jose before Ashley signed. The gaffer always told me he was going to bring in a left-back and Ashley always looked like being the first choice.

'Jose told me it would be an even affair so I was happy to sign a new deal.

'I hope he sticks to that but I am getting chances to play. He seems happy with me but if anyone takes a dip in form they are not going to play.

'Ashley is one of the best in the world but I don't see myself just sitting behind him.

'My form has been really good and I want to fight for my place. To do that I've got to keep playing well when I get the chance.

'I don't see myself as second choice, I see it as an even affair.

'The club were always talking to me and telling me they still wanted me here. I was glad to start the season off and my form was quite good.

'I talked to Jose before I signed the new deal and he has been happy with the way I've been playing and I was just happy to get that response from him.'

Meanwhile, Mourinho will send out a strong side against Levski Sofia in a bid to finish top of the group.

Chelsea need a win to ensure they end the first phase of the tournament in pole position in Group A.

Mourinho will rest veteran France midfielder Claude Makelele and Cole while captain and central defender John Terry misses out through suspension.

Victory for Werder Bremen over Barcelona and Chelsea's failure to match that result would rob the English champions of top spot.

Mourinho said: 'The motivation for us is to finish top. We know if we lose the game we are not first in the group.

'We know if Werder Bremen win, we need to win to be first in the group.

'Because we won't know how the game in Barcelona will end, we have to think of all possibilities. We must win the game to finish top.

'I will give a rest to Makelele because he needs that, John Terry is suspended and Ashley Cole will be on the bench but after that I will try and play with my best team.'

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