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Shaky Foundations Worry Mourinho
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Jose Mourinho fears he may have made a rare misjudgement that threatens to undermine Chelsea's attempt to win all four major trophies.

Mourinho prides himself on his attention to detail and his meticulous planning has laid the foundations for Chelsea to land back-to-back Premiership titles.

But the Portuguese coach is worried that his decision to chose quality over quantity has left his defence short of experienced back-up as they enter the busiest part of the season.

Mourinho allowed William Gallas and Robert Huth to leave Stamford Bridge in pre-season because he felt the addition of versatile Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz would provide sufficient cover for his back-four.

However, Boulahrouz has endured a torrid time as he adapts to life in the Premiership and Paulo Ferreira and Geremi have fared little better, forcing Mourinho to use Ghana midfielder Michael Essien as a makeshift defender several times.

That would be less of a problem if England captain Terry wasn't struggling with a persistent back problem that sidelined him for Sunday's win at Everton and could keep him out again when Chelsea face Newcastle in the League Cup quarter-final at St James' Park on Wednesday.

With Chelsea competing for the Premiership as well as the Champions League and FA and League Cups, Mourinho knows he cannot afford to be caught short if injuries and suspension take their toll.

A move for a defender looks certain when the transfer window opens in January and he said: "It was a bit risky to face the season with only three central defenders because in the past we always had Carvalho, Terry, William Gallas and Robert Huth.

"Because Terry has not been injured for the past two seasons, we felt the fourth central defender was not playing a lot.

"But this season, John is having a few problems. He was suspended for a couple of games, then he was injured when we played Fulham and again yesterday. It means we are short of a player."

Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder is counting on Nolberto Solano recovering from a groin-strain in time to face Chelsea as an injury crisis has left him with just two fit senior defenders.

Former Chelsea left-back Celestine Babayaro is suspended and Craig Moore, Steve Carr, Titus Bramble and Olivier Bernard are all injured.

Teenager Paul Huntington, who made his first Premiership start in last week's 1-0 league defeat at Chelsea, is likely to play out of position at left-back, with Steven Taylor and Peter Ramage filling the centre-half roles.

"At this moment I only have two experienced defenders in Taylor and Ramage," Roeder told the Newcastle Chronicle.

"Young Huntington has kept things nice and simple and I am delighted with what he has done.

"We still need another defender and Nobby's 60-40, and if he does not make it for Wednesday night he will be out there against Spurs at St James' Park on Saturday.

"The same applies to Emre. He has a very sore ankle but says he has a good chance of playing against Chelsea."

Chelsea have lost four of their last five visits to St James' Park and are without a win there in five years.

Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer believes his side can extend that impressive record on Wednesday and he told Sky Sports: "Chelsea showed why they are champions at the weekend, they were magnificent. But we have got a decent record against them at home.

"We knocked them out in the FA Cup one year and beat them on the last game of last season, so we will go into the game full of confidence and if we get a result we can be just one game away from Cardiff."

(China Daily December 20, 2006)

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