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5 talking points from the NPFL weekend

By ESPN Staff

Mikel backing for Grant ahead of title finale

Midfielder Mikel John Obi has given his backing to under-fire Chelsea boss Avram Grant ahead of their crucial final Premier League game against Bolton on Sunday.

Mikel refuses to accept that the league title will remain at Old Trafford for the second successive season.

Manchester United are in pole position heading into the final weekend but Mikel insists there could still be a twist in the tale.

The Blues need Wigan to take something from their game with United at the JJB Stadium, while Grant's men must take maximum points at home to Wanderers.

But with speculation continuing to suggest that Chelsea are set to part company with Grant over the summer, regardless of how many trophies he wins, Mikel said: 'He's a nice man, the perfect guy, I like him.

'We have a pretty good chance in the Premier League, and in the Champions League as well. In the last game United may drop two points and if we win against Bolton we win the title,' he told Sky Sports.

Meanwhile Mikel's backing for Grant came on the day that the club distanced themselves from reports suggesting the Israeli is at the centre of a race-hate campaign.

The Blues also pledged to fight all forms of discrimination and prejudice and would take action against anyone found guilty of making racist threats.

Earlier in the season, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck accused some of the club's fans of sending racist abuse when Grant replaced Jose Mourinho as manager at Stamford Bridge last September.

Chelsea's decision to replace the `Special One' with the 52-year-old Israeli spawned a number of anti-Semitic comments which Buck insisted were unacceptable.

But the subject was pushed into the spotlight once more when Grant's agent and friend, Pini Zahavi, claimed the Chelsea boss was the victim of an anti-Semitic campaign.

However, a statement on the club's official website said: 'We would like to officially distance ourselves from comments in the media regarding the reasons behind any criticism Avram Grant may or may not have received since he became our manager in September.

'Chelsea is totally committed to fighting all forms of discrimination and prejudice and will act in the strongest possible way, given the evidence, against anyone who uses anti-Semitism or any other form of discrimination in any shape or form.

'Our manager has conducted himself with great dignity and respect in his role as Chelsea manager.

'Last week he made a moving speech at Auschwitz on Holocaust Remembrance Day. In it he promoted the power of sport in bringing all people together regardless of race and religion and its ability to break down barriers. That is a sentiment Chelsea agrees with entirely.'

Zahavi, one of the richest and most influential agents in the game, is also an Israeli. He has known Grant for over 20 years and helped broker the sale of Chelsea to owner Roman Abramovich five years ago.

'There are no words to describe the mistreatment Avram is receiving,' Zahavi told Israeli daily newspaper Ma'ariv.

'They are sucking his blood on a daily basis regardless of his victories and what he achieves.

'You know what, maybe if he hadn't been Israeli or Jewish, it might have been different.

'Obviously there is some sort of anti-Semitism here, especially if one remembers who appointed him. Abramovich is not only Jewish but also Russian and Jewish. So the Chelsea fans love him, but the rest of the fans in England certainly don't.'