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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 27, 2008

Scolari challenges fringe players to earn place

Luiz Felipe Scolari has challenged his fringe players to fight for their place in the Chelsea team to face Portsmouth in the Premier League opener next month.

The former Portugal coach only took over the Chelsea reins at the start of July, but has revealed he knows the majority of the squad who will line up at Stamford Bridge on August 17 after identifying a key group of players who will lead the title challenge.

And with three games of the Blues' tour of Asia and Russia remaining, including Tuesday's meeting with a Malaysian League Select XI in Kuala Lumpur, Scolari is looking for players to step up and earn their place in the side.

'I have some ideas but I need to train more with the team over the next three games,' Scolari said. 'I have in my mind one idea for the team to play against Portsmouth, but until then I want to see how the players train. I have a minimum of 75% of the team in my mind but I need to know the other 25%.

'I know who my key players are. I have had 15 days with them and I know who is important for us to play more games than other players.

'You need to build a team around a few players in essential positions for important games and I now know who they.'

Shaun Wright-Phillips could be seen as a player who is expected to be fighting for a place in the side next season should the England midfielder remain at Stamford Bridge.

The former Manchester City man made over 30 appearances for Chelsea last season but struggled to hold down a place in the side and has been linked with a summer move to Portsmouth, rumours Scolari insisted on Saturday where new to him.

'I have spoken to Shaun today at training and he is happy at Chelsea,' Scolari added. 'If he wants to leave the decision is not only for me but also for the board. Shaun has done a good job up to now, the other players love him and so do my team.'

Meanwhile, Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon has insisted there are no further developments over their pursuit of Real Madrid striker Robinho.

Since arriving in Asia, Kenyon has openly admitted discussions with the Spanish champions over a deal for the Brazilian are ongoing.

Robinho's agent, Wagner Ribeiro, has claimed the Blues are winning the race for his signature, and admitted the player is keen to link up with fellow Brazilian Scolari.

A report on Sunday suggested Chelsea had agreed personal terms with Robinho, and that a British record transfer had been tabled by the Blues, but Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster remains adamant the 24-year-old will remain at the club next season.

'It has been easier for Mr Scolari to speak to Shaun (Wright-Philips) as he is on the trip than it has been for me to speak to Madrid due to the time difference so there is no update,' Kenyon said.

'We will have further discussions but this is one that could rumble on.'

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