Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ranieri's Excited by Revival of the Door-Die Clash

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ranieri's Excited by Revival of the Door-Die Clash

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN DYER

THE gap between Chelsea matches may be only marginally longer than a Britney Spears marriage but Claudio Ranieri hopes that whatever team he picks against Liverpool tonight will be at the top of their game.

Ranieri, like other managers, believes the English domestic game should close down for a couple of weeks around this time of year. But, until that time, his blue-chip squad will have to battle on in search of the points they need to keep in touch with the other members of the Premiership's title-chasing elite, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Chelsea will be expected to beat a Liverpool team 16 points behind them in the table and, if you believe some reports, nearing crisis point.

It is a vital match for both clubs but not as important as their last Premiership meeting at Stamford Bridge, on the final day of last season.

With Chelsea in serious financial trouble, a place in the lucrative Champions League was not so much an ambition as a necessity.

Defeat by Liverpool would have meant the Anfield club taking that final Champions League place and Chelsea instead qualifying for the far less financially attractive UEFA Cup.

If anyone was under any illusions as to the importance of that grand finale, they were put right by group chief executive Trevor Birch in his speech to the players before kick-off.

"Trevor told everyone that this was not only an important match for the club and the supporters but for the players too," said Ranieri.

It was true. The club were desperately looking for a way to reduce their debt without parting with their best players. Had the financial injection of a Champions League place eluded them, it is probable that more players than Gianfranco Zola would have departed.

Chelsea won a monumental match 2-1 and, as Ranieri said today: "This was the start of our new story, the Roman Abramovich story.

"All the year we had been near the top, second, third, fourth or fifth, and we wanted to achieve something.

"We had got there without spending anything and the players had arrived at that final game having fought very, very hard. …

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