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By ESPN Staff

Blues struggling for midfielders

Andre Villas-Boas has admitted Chelsea could be left short of cover in midfield if injury strikes Frank Lampard again this season.

• Terry sees Jose in Villas-Boas
• Modric still keen on Chelsea
• Van Walle: Lukaku living the dream

Lampard was sidelined for three and a half months last term, his absence coinciding with the Blues' worst run in the league for almost 15 years. The England midfielder returned to help them go close to completing the greatest comeback in Premier League history, but they ultimately came up short and finished the campaign empty-handed.

Chelsea have already lost two midfielders before the start of this season, with Yury Zhirkov returning to Russia and Michael Essien ruled out for six months with a serious knee problem. The man signed to fill the void, Oriol Romeu, is still on international duty with Spain at the Under-20 World Cup and may not be available for selection until next month.

Chelsea have also made two attempts to prise Luka Modric from Tottenham but so far without success and, although Villas-Boas is happy with his squad going into his first competitive game in charge against Stoke on sunday, he acknowledged resources could easily become stretched.

"We are struggling with numbers in midfield," he said. "We have Oriol still away at the under-20s World Cup. He'll return late in August, so numbers are short."

Sunday's game is likely to see Chelsea line up with a three-man midfield of Lampard, Ramires and John Obi Mikel, with Josh McEachran as back-up. Villas-Boas revealed he would also consider asking Yossi Benayoun or Florent Malouda to play more centrally if necessary.

"It's good enough for us that the people we have can play in those positions - we have a lot of versatility in midfield," he said. "Florent Malouda and Yossi can play number eight or number 10, and that gives us flexibility.

"That's why we're happy with the squad running into the Stoke game. All have been playing at a high level. In midfield, everyone has been performing well."

While Chelsea may have a shortage of midfielders, the impending arrival of 18-year-old Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht would give them a surplus of strikers, though his signing has still not been officially confirmed.

"We're outlining details," Villas-Boas said. "Lukaku is one of those players we couldn't afford to lose because of his potential.

"That's why we made a move in the market, although our team is competitive and competent enough in that sector. Bearing in mind what he's been doing for the last couple of years at Anderlecht, we couldn't let this boy escape."

Captain John Terry said of his fellow Chelsea fanatic Lukaku: "I looked him up YouTube the other week. I heard the guys say that he sleeps in his Chelsea shirt.

"For me, someone coming in like that and caring about the club from day one is the ideal situation. We want players coming for the love of the club."


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