Shevchenko in for injured Drogba

September 14, 2007

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has welcomed the return to form and fitness of Andriy Shevchenko and silenced suggestions the Ukrainian is not part of his plans.

The striker scored for his country during their Euro 2008 qualifiers in midweek, amid suggestions that he was upset at not being part of Chelsea's squad at the start of the season.

But Shevchenko, who underwent a groin operation towards the end of last season, proved his fitness on international duty and Mourinho is ready to welcome him back into the fold.

Shevchenko will almost certainly play some part in tomorrow's home clash with Blackburn because Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba is missing.

He has not recovered from the knee injury he sustained in the closing moments of their defeat against Aston Villa.

Mourinho confirmed that both Drogba and England midfielder Frank Lampard would be absent from his line-up and there was a doubt about Claudio Pizarro, who was still on his way back from international duty with Peru.

But Mourinho said: 'Sheva is selected. It is good to have him back. We need every player. We are starting the period where we need everybody.

'We need to rotate players. We are now playing in three competitions at the same time. In the next two weeks, we have to play five matches and that's the story we are going to have, hopefully, until the of the season, playing in a lot competitions and matches.

'So we need every player with Drogba injured and with Pizarro still at this moment in the air and on the way back to London, the situation is not easy in attack.

'We need everybody and it is good to have Shevchenko back. He played two matches for his national team, the results were not good for his team but I saw the matches and especially, in the second one, I was happy with the way he performed. So yes, he is selected and he will have minutes tomorrow.'

Mourinho may not have selected the Ukrainian so far this season but he still believes Shevchenko is improving in every aspect of his game and, more importantly, the teamwork which is so vital to Chelsea.

Mourinho explained: 'Sometimes it is not just about fitness. Sometimes players have a great fitness situation and they are not performing well.

'I think he's improving in every aspect. Against Italy he played a good game not just because he scored the goal, football is not just about goals.

'I think his contribution to the team was positive. He brought to his game, some of the aspects I want him to bring. I was very happy watching that game. So I hope he can perform for us because we need him.

'Last Wednesday I was watching three or four matches at the same time - doing a lot of zipping. I was taping other matches to watch them all, I saw every one of my players except Essien in Saudi Arabia and I'm happy with the way he performed.'

Mourinho has already challenged his players to focus on winning the title back - starting with victory over Blackburn at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

But while he still believes the Premier League is the best in the world, he knows it is now even harder than ever to cruise to the crown like they did in his first season in the English game.

Mourinho added: 'It is more than a race, every game is open I think things are better, teams are better because they have spent money.

'Teams bought good players, teams with ambitions. Newcastle wants more, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Fulham and West Ham. They all want more, everybody wants more.

'So I think the competition is very hard. I don't think the kind of points we had to be champions in the previous season or the number of points Manchester United won it with last year will happen.

'It is a difficult number to reach again because it is more difficult to win matches. I can see a much more competitive league not just because of the top teams but especially because of the other group I mentioned.'