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Nov 3, 2009

Drogba backed by Platini after ban comes to end

UEFA president Michel Platini believes Chelsea striker Didier Drogba will return to European football "better and stronger" following his three-match ban.

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Drogba is expected to return to the line up against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, following his suspension for verbally abusing Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo at the end of their semi-final defeat at the hands of Barcelona last season. Ovrebo had turned down a string of Chelsea penalty appeals.

"What I saw on TV was the comportment of Didier," added Platini. "All the TV showed the insult of Drogba, not the decisions. I was like Drogba in the past when I saw an injustice as a player. But I don't know Drogba's mind. He took the decision that he felt was right for him. He was alone in thinking that.

"Drogba's a good guy. I know him very well. He understands now that he made a mistake. Everybody does. He will come back better, stronger."

Platini also stressed he is not involved in the process of refereeing appointments and claims he still does not know Ovrebo's identity.

"When I arrive at a stadium, I don't know the name of the referee," said Platini. "That's the decision of the independent committee of referees. I was not there at Chelsea. I didn't know the name of the referee and I still don't.

"I don't know whether the referee made a mistake or not. If it was a mistake, I will say 'it's not a mistake' because I have to defend the referees."

Many Chelsea fans accused UEFA of a conspiracy against them, alleging that Platini wanted Barcelona to reach the final against Manchester United to prevent another all-Premier League showdown with the Blues.

"Do you think I am so stupid as to ask a referee to make Chelsea not get to the final?" said Platini. "I always respect all the players and clubs. I don't interfere. If two English teams are in the final, I have no problem. If it's two Spanish teams, no problem. It's better if not two from the same country but it's not my problem.

"If they get there, they deserve to be there. It is not because I like Barcelona's system (of fan ownership) that I exempt them to go to the final!"

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