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By ESPN Staff

Zhirkov to stay as defender prepares for first start

Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti has told unsettled Yury Zhirkov that he will not be allowed to quit Stamford Bridge.

The Russia international defender will make his first start for Chelsea this season against MSK Zilina in the Champions League on Wednesday after claiming he is set to consider his future in the January transfer window.

Zhirkov, signed for £18.2 million from CSKA Moscow last year, was hampered by knee problems during his first season at the club.

The defender has struggled to break into Ancelotti's team this season with England left-back Ashley Cole and France winger Florent Malouda in sparkling form.

But while Zhirkov has already made his frustration clear, Ancelotti was quick to put an end to any further speculation by speaking out on the issue for the first time.

"I don't need to speak with him about the future,'' Ancelotti said. "That is because his future is here with Chelsea. He is a good player. He knows in this club, in the top teams, there is a lot of competition to play and for this reason, he has to improve.

"But I think that he will have the possibility to play a lot of games this year, because we are involved in a lot of competitions. We need to have all the players fit and ready to play.''

Ancelotti has been boosted by captain John Terry's fitness. The England defender has shaken off the rib injury which threatened to rule him out of their opening game. But the Italian has made a number of changes from the side that beat West Ham 3-1 on Saturday.

Branislav Ivanovic moves to right back with Paul Ferreira dropping to the bench to accommodate Alex alongside Terry in defence. Daniel Sturridge replaces the suspended Didier Drogba in attack while Yossi Benayoun makes his first start in midfield alongside Michael Essien and John Mikel Obi.

"John has no problem to play tomorrow,'' confirmed Ancelotti. "He is fit and trained yesterday with no problem. So for this reason he is ready to play tomorrow.

"Sturridge trained very well last year and he has improved a lot. I think it is the time for him to show us his quality. he is fantastic ability, he is quick with the ball and it is time for him to put his power on the pitch for us. He has different skills compared to Drogba. I have never seen a striker as quick as he is.''

Zilina are expected to be the group's whipping boys but they beat Sparta Prague to reach the group stages and Ancelotti is not taking their threat lightly.

"Zilina is a good team. I saw the game against Sparta Prague. They played well both games. They have ability up front, so we have to pay attention to them,'' he added.

"We are here to win. We have to stay focused. Our aim is to win this group but it will not be easy. For them it is an important game and we have to pay attention to them.''

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