KUALA LUMPUR: Big-spending Chelsea flew in yesterday morning for the inaugural FA Premier League (FAPL) Asia Cup tournament without three of their big names, including skipper and defender Marcel Desailly.
Also not in the team are two other French internationals – midfielder Emmanuel Petit and defender William Gallas.
But manager Claudio Ranieri lifted the gloom for the Chelsea fans at a press conference, saying that their two latest signings, Wayne Bridge and Damien Duff, would fly in to KL today.
England leftback Bridge sealed his move from Southampton to Stamford Bridge on Monday. The 22-year-old Bridge signed a five-year deal with Chelsea, making him the third high profile signing since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought over the club.
The signing of Bridge came in the wake of Chelsea’s capture of Cameroon international midfielder Geremi from Middlesbrough at a cost of £7mil and Glen Johnson from West Ham at £6mil.
Later on Monday, Irish international Duff also completed his move to Chelsea from Blackburn. Duff signed a four-year contract for £17mil.
Ranieri made it clear that “names are not important” to him.
“To me motivation is more important than names to build a strong team. I need to have a strong team to keep close to the big names in the Premier League. Right now I have a strong team,” said the Italian.
Last season, Chelsea finished fourth behind Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle. Besides challenging the big guns for the English Premiership this season, Chelsea will also have a crack at the European Champions League.
“I am ready to handle the pressure. A coach is always under pressure. Pressure is crazy but I like pressure,” said Ranieri.
“I have a mission and the Asia Cup is a very important tournament for us to get cracking.
“All big teams have big players and Chelsea are no different. What we are spending on a player is not my problem. My problem is getting the right player.”
Chelsea will play against Malaysia on Friday. The winners will qualify for the final on Sunday against the winners of the match between Newcastle and Birmingham, which will be played tomorrow. The losers will contest for third place on Saturday.
Ranieri admitted the hot and humid conditions here will pose problems to his team, especially in the first match.
“It will be a very hard match. Malaysia want to win as much as we do. They will be out to give us a fight ... not forgetting that they also have a great coach (former Chelsea player Allan Harris). I expect Malaysia to run at us right from the start.
“We want to win. Chelsea have come here with a mission. This pre-season tournament is just as important to show good football on our part as we try to win something before the English season kicks off.
“Chelsea are taking this tournament very seriously even though we don’t have some of the big names with us in KL. But all those who are here are ready to play. What is important to me is the mentality and motivation of the players.”
Skipper John Terry, who was also at the press conference, described his club’s new signings as “great signings this season”.
“As captain of the team, it will be a good start to the season if we can win the Asia Cup,” he said.
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