Grant to dig deep as Chelsea setbacks mount
Avram Grant insists Chelsea will draw on all their reserves of strength as they confront the latest setback in a troubled season at Stamford Bridge.
Already missing talisman striker Didier Drogba and defensive kingpin John Terry to injury, the Blues have now lost suspended duo Ashley Cole and Ricardo Carvalho.
The defenders were sent off in yesterday's gripping 4-4 draw with Aston Villa, Carvalho was dismissed for a two-footed lunge at Gabriel Agbonlahor and Cole also saw red when referee Phil Dowd adjudged that he had handled on the line.
Carvalho is set to miss league appointments with Newcastle and Fulham and an FA Cup tie against QPR.
Cole has made a claim for wrongful dismissal to the Football Association which will be heard tomorrow.
Chelsea trail leaders Manchester United by seven points and any further slip-ups during the Christmas schedule would leave their hopes of wrestling the title back from Old Trafford in ruins.
But Grant is refusing to raise the white flag and has steeled Stamford Bridge for the hardship ahead.
'As long as we have a chance we will do everything we can to catch Manchester United and Arsenal,' he said.
'We have character and will not give up. We will do anything to challenge them.
'This job has been a big challenge from the day I started it and I will accept this latest challenge.'
Grant has been casting jealous glances at the relatively full squads available to his rivals at United and Arsenal.
It is not the first time Chelsea have been faced with a crippling casualty list as Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Carvalho and Cole have been lost to the treatment room already this season.
But the prospect of fielding second choice centre-back pairing Tal Ben-Haim and Alex for the next three games must be troubling Grant.
'To have these players unavailable is a test for us, but we have been here already this season by playing without big names,' he said.
'Football is always a big test when you have a bad time. It's not easy but this is the situation and we'll make the best of it.
'I'm waiting for the day when I can be like other managers and have all my players available. I think that time will come one day.'
Grant admits the gaps caused by suspension and injury and the departure of Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Mikel John Obi and Michael Essien to the African Nations Cup next month will shape Chelsea's movement in the transfer window.
'Everything is always about January because the transfer window is open,' he said.
'The injured players and the African Nations Cup will make us think more about what we need to do.'
Villa cut Chelsea to pieces in the first half yesterday as they swept into a 2-0 lead, only for the dismissal of Zat Knight to turn the game in the Blues' favour.
Manager Martin O'Neill was encouraged by Villa's performance but insists they must learn to adjust their tempo if they are to challenge the top four.
'The big clubs like Chelsea are very good. We played three games in one match against Chelsea - we were at full stretch,' he said.
'For us to be able to able to control a game and to go down a gear for 10 or 15 minutes in a match and then be able to step up again is what we must be looking to achieve.
'We have to learn that and be good at it. We haven't reached that stage yet. The top four sides have that in comfort.'