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Feb 11, 2009

Blame the players, says Ballack

Michael Ballack insists Chelsea's underperforming players should take the blame for Luiz Felipe Scolari's sacking as he attempts to quash speculation that he was one of the players pushing for the coach's exit.

Scolari was dismissed on Monday after a poor run of form and rumours are rife that criticism from Ballack, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba hastened the Brazilian's exit.

The Sun newspapers reported on Wednesday that the ousted Blues boss told his friend: "Ballack, Cech and Drogba became my enemies. They have a direct line to [Chelsea owner Roman] Abramovich."

Captain John Terry's comment that only "two or three" others gave Scolari their full support has only fanned the flames of speculation that player power was behind the sacking.

But Germany captain Ballack has moved to offer his backing to Scolari, insisting he cannot be held entirely accountable for the slump in form which has even put qualification for next season's Champions League at risk.

"It is a shame because he had not been with us for a long time," Ballack told Germany's Sport1.

"Of course there was some criticism and we did not get the results we all would have wanted, but that is not the manager's fault but the team's.

"Something like this is always uncomfortable."

Russia coach Guus Hiddink is expected to take control of Chelsea until the end of the season and if the appointment is ratified, the Dutchman will be the fourth manager Ballack has played under at Stamford Bridge since joining in 2006.

But despite the upheaval the German is still confident the club can challenge for silverware this season.

"I want to win the Champions League and play at the highest level and I can do that with Chelsea," he added.

"Last year we were level with Manchester United on points right to the end (in the Premier League) and we lost the (Champions League) final unluckily on penalties.

"This club has high ambitions and that is what I came here for."

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