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30 stats for Messi's 30th birthday

Barcelona
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Lampard backing for ''best in the world'' Drogba

Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari must decide whether to bring Didier Drogba back in from the cold for the visit of Stoke City on Saturday, but has been backed to do so by Frank Lampard.

Drogba's future at Stamford Bridge was brought into question after Scolari axed him from the squad that went on to beat Southend in the FA Cup on Wednesday.

Assistant first-team coach Ray Wilkins insists Drogba is still a 'valuable member' of the set-up and England midfielder Lampard wants the Ivorian to stay and fight for his place in the side.

Drogba was made to train with the reserves on Wednesday and feels he is being made a scapegoat following his poor performance in their 3-0 mauling by Manchester United last Sunday.

But despite Scolari's get-tough policy with the striker, Lampard hopes Drogba will react in a positive way.

''Hopefully he will remain a massive part of this club because he's definitely one of, if not the best, strikers in the world,'' declared Lampard. ''Didier is a very big personality and player at this club and he will take it in the right way, I'm sure.

''It's the manager's prerogative to leave players out. Every manager I've played under, and I've played under some top managers, has the right to drop someone, put them on the bench, rest them, whatever.''

The Brazilian coach stung his squad with a scathing assessment of both their form and trophy-winning capabilities on the eve of the Southend cup-tie, but far from alienating his players, Scolari's outburst appears to have galvanised a side supposedly at odds with him.

''Any time at any club there will be some players at the top of their game and some that aren't,'' said Lampard. ''The manager didn't pick on anyone individually. The manager was just explaining how it's been. We're not here to pick out certain individuals, we've all had our patches where we've not played at our best. ''If you want to cry about the manager saying you're playing below par - you have to look at yourself first. That is what every player has to do and is doing. The response was fantastic and we need to carry on from that.''

Chelsea are still waiting to learn how long England midfielder Joe Cole faces on the sidelines after collecting an injury to the back of his knee against Southend.

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