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Napoli ready to end 28-year title drought

Serie A
By ESPN Staff

Scolari gives thumbs-up for new Ballack deal

Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be delighted if Michael Ballack extends his contract for a further two years.

The Germany international is out of contract next summer but no talks regarding an extension have taken place with the club's hierarchy.

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon can see no reason why the Blues would not want to exercise their option in keeping the midfielder for a further two years.

Ballack, 32, has endured an indifferent career in England and only returned to action as a substitute against West Bromwich Albion last weekend following foot surgery.

Ballack insists he wants to end his career at Stamford Bridge and Scolari would welcome the opportunity to continue working with the experienced international.

''He is a player who is very professional and who I like to work with,'' said Scolari.

''He has a German style - direct. I like that. In the future we will see what will happen with Chelsea but his age is no problem because he is young and plays very well.

''If Chelsea can agree a deal it is fantastic for me but we have not had a conversation about this yet.''

Ballack is aware of his advancing years but remains convinced he still has a future at the highest level despite a catalogue of injuries.

''I feel I have a lot to give for years to come,'' he said. ''I think I have a lot of experience and am still in good shape. I feel strong, I can imagine finishing my career at Chelsea and we want to win something big.''

Scolari's table-topping side face struggling Newcastle at Stamford Bridge tomorrow without the services of the suspended Ivorian striker Didier Drogba.

But the Brazilian coach revealed Joe and Ashley Cole are both ready to return following injury and midfielder Frank Lampard should be fit after recovering from the rib problem that kept him out of England's win over Germany in midweek.

''I have received all the players back in good condition apart from Deco, Jose Bosingwa and Paulo Ferreira,'' said Scolari. ''They arrived back at 6pm on Thursday, so training was impossible.

''They will do a little training today for tomorrow. Frank's injury is better. He started to train on Thursday and he is in good condition for tomorrow's game.

''It is the time for Didier to train and work hard on his knee and ankle with the fitness coach. We have lost Didier but when he comes back, he will be better than before.''

Chelsea are hoping they can begin to rekindle the kind of home form that saw them go 86 games undefeated in the league.

The Blues have yet to lose a domestic game on their travels this season but home defeats by Liverpool in the league and Burnley in the Carling Cup have dented their 'Fortress Bridge' ideology.

Yet Scolari is convinced the players are fully focused on their title ambitions.

''Look, we have lost three games and afterwards we played well,'' said Scolari. ''We have very good professionals here and we discuss games whenever we win, lose or draw.

''We have a focus for the Premier League. After the games that we lost, we show to the players what happened and why we lost.

''They understand and try to change the situation in the next game. If we want to win the Premier League we need 85% of the points at home or away. We have a good balance and the players know this.''


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