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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 8 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Dec 28, 2007

Grant sets sights on transfer targets

Avram Grant is continuing his search for players to bolster his depleted squad and keep Chelsea in the Premier League title race.

Grant lost Frank Lampard on Boxing Day for up to month with a thigh tear, joining senior players John Terry, Didier Drogba and Claude Makelele on the sidelines.

The more immediate concern is covering for Ashley Cole after the left-back got sent off for handball against Aston Villa and lost his appeal with the Football Association.

Cole is suspended for the clash against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, along with Ricardo Carvalho after the centre-back's horror tackle on Gabriel Agbonlahor.

If Grant's squad is stretched now, he will also lose more players when the African Nations Cup starts next month, with Chelsea expected to strengthen in the transfer window.

Grant hinted at looking for long-term investments as well as short-term solutions.

'We are thinking about this and need to think about this,' said Grant. 'We are following players.

'In every position, even where we have good players, if there is a player good for us we will take them. Especially now when we have injured players and the African Nations.'

Despite Andriy Shevchenko's recent goals, Chelsea have been persistently linked with Nicolas Anelka, while a potential move for Luka Modric seems to have been made easier as Tottenham are not expected to pursue the Croatia midfielder.

One position Grant is not looking for is goalkeeper. Petr Cech has been guilty of errors against Arsenal and Villa but his boss has backed him to return to his normal impressive form when he is fully recovered from a side problem.

'Petr Cech is a great goalkeeper,' said Grant. 'He is not his best from a physical side so we have to think what is best for him and for the team.

'Every goalkeeper has bad days. We are not happy from this and he is not happy from this. But he is still the best goalkeeper in the world, for me.

'He is a very nice guy and he's very strong mentally.'

Chelsea slipped up at this stage last year and are behind the pace this time around after dropping points against Arsenal and Villa - but Grant insists they are still in the title race.

'Last year it was nine points or 12 points in March and everyone said that nothing was finished,' he said. 'We are not even in January. It's seven points, so anything can happen.

'I'm very optimistic by nature. Thinking about the negative things is not the right way to think about it.

'The last three months was not easy and not for one day did I have the whole squad available. I'm sure it will happen one day but I don't know when.

'When there is a fact and you can't change it, my nature is to get used to it quickly and get the best out of the situation. Like we did last time.'

Grant, however, also accepts that after significant progress since taking over in September, he is now facing a huge challenge to maintain momentum.

'For me, a difficult time is a challenge,' he said. 'It was a big challenge from the first day and now it is bigger.

'I hope we continue as we were before the injuries and suspensions. Seven points is not the end of the world.'

The Premier League manager who appears to have a biggest challenge at the moment appears to be Sam Allardyce in his bid to change the fortunes of Newcastle.

'I respect him a lot, he's a great manager and I know him personally,' said Grant. 'But pressure is the name of the game. I don't see a club without pressure - fighting relegation or at the top.

'There is always pressure in football to make the right decision.'