OBI MIKEL BACKS ZHIRKOV

John Obi Mikel is backing Chelsea teammate Yury Zhirkov to fill the void left by Ashley Cole’s injury.

Zhirkov appears the prime candidate to replace Cole at left-back.

“Ashley is going to big a loss for us because he is a very important player for this team,” Nigeria midfielder Mikel told chelseafc.com.

“But we have Yury, who can play in that position as well, and this is football, these things happen.

“We feel really bad that something like that happens to him at this time in the season, we don’t want it to happen to him at any time of the season, but with such important games coming up it’s going to be a big blow.”

ZHIRKOV: HARD GAMES TO COME

After our marvellous 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday, a win that saw us leapfrog the champions back to the top of the league, the bookies have shortened our title odds and the pundits have revised their tips, once again, to dub us champions-elect.

With five league games remaining, three of which will be played at Stamford Bridge, and a two-point cushion at the top of the table, it’s fair to say that the destiny of the title is in our hands.

However, Yuri Zhirkov, our Russian winger / makeshift full back, has spoken out in the aftermath of our triumph in the North West to warn that the title race is far from over.

‘It is far too early to become deluded,’ he said. ‘The champion’s race continues. We have some hard games ahead – particularly those against Liverpool and Tottenham. We are determined to win our remaining games.’

ARSHAVIN HAPPY FOR ZHIRKOV

Andrey Arshavin has admitted his frustration after enduring Arsenal’s ‘pitiful’ trophyless season.

“There was nothing special last season for me to think back about,” Arshavin told The Sun. “The season was normal – even pitiful.”

In contrast, Arshavin heaped praise on league victors Chelsea and compatriot Yuri Zhirkov, admitting their win was well-earned.

“I am happy for Yuri Zhirkov, who won the Premier League with Chelsea,” he added.

“They deserved the trophy, as they were the strongest during the season. We didn’t win much for fans doing football spread betting.

ZHIRKOV GIVES CHELSEA OPTIONS

Chelsea are confident in Yuri Zhirkov’s abilities that they are considering selling Cole. Chelsea could offer Ashley Cole to Real Madrid as makeweight for Kaka because of Yuri Zhirkov.

Rumours are gathering pace over Real Madrid’s interest in Ashley Cole but expect Chelsea to ask for something more exotic than money.

YURI BACK TO FITNESS

Yuri Zhirkov looks set to shake off his injury problems and start training this week. Chelsea are facing a number of injury crisis with a host of star players already out of the season opening match at Wembley for the community shield. It doesn’t look great for Abramovich from his Chelsea Hospitality seat!

Both Drogba and Petr Cech are likely to miss the clash with arch rivals Manchester united at Wembley and might further miss their season opener against West Bromwich Albion at the Bridge. However the good news is that Yossi Benayoun and Yuri Zhirkov are likely to start training this week.

ZHIRKOV STRUGGLING WITH INJURY

Chelsea defender Yuri Zhirkov says that he is still struggling with a niggling injury. Zhirkov, 26, joined Chelsea from CSKA Moscow last summer for a fee believed to be in the region of £18 million, but a knee injury restricted his involvement and he did not start in the Premier League until late December. Chelsea’s chances of winning the Champions League are better if Zhirkov is playing.

Yuri Zhirkov was able to play regular football during Ashley Cole’s absence earlier this year and made a positive contribution to the club’s title success, but he has now revealed that he still suffering from the problem and could require further surgery.

“I had to miss a major part of the pre-season preparations,” he told Sport Express. “After my summer holidays, I still had sharp pain in my knees and had to visit Moscow for consultations, and also to consult with a doctor from Germany in London.

“The medical procedures and exercises helped me feel much better than last year, but the pain still bothers me after matches and trainings. In general, though, my health is much better than last year.

“I’ve decided that one month should be enough for me to return to my peak form. If I don’t manage to get rid of my problems, it will be necessary to do something about it. I’m looking optimistically at my future and I’m sure that I will shake off my injury, although I don’t know when it will happen.”

ZHIRKOV GOING NOWHERE

Carlo Ancelotti has denied reports that Yuri Zhirkov could leave Chelsea in the January transfer Window. The Russia international had previously claimed that he may have to quit the Stamford Bridge club in January in search of regular first team football. A number of free bets have been placed with bookies that Zhirkov will leave in January, on loan.

Yuri Zhirkov, who is comfortable playing at left full-back or on the left-hand-side of midfield, has struggled to make an impression in England since his move from CSKA Moscow back in the summer of 2009, largely due to the impressive form of Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda.

Although despite the Russian’s concerns with regards to his Chelsea future, Ancelotti is adamant that he won’t be allowed to leave the club.

“I don’t need to speak with him about the future,” Ancelotti told reporters. “That is because his future is here with Chelsea. He is a good player. He knows in this club, in the top teams, there is a lot of competition to play and for this reason, he has to improve.

“But I think that he will have the possibility to play a lot of games this year, because we are involved in a lot of competitions. We need to have all the players fit and ready to play.”

ZHIRKOV WANTS TO BE A REGULAR

Yuri Zhirkov has said that his ambition is to become a regular for Chelsea. The Russian has endured a miserable start to the season following his £18million summer move to Stamford Bridge after being sidelined by a persistent ankle injury he suffered in pre-season.

But Zhirkov finally ended his frustration last night when he made his debut in Chelsea’s 1-0 Carling Cup victory over QPR.

The left wing-back said: “This is Chelsea, I don’t think anything needs to be said about the club.

“Everything is done at the highest level here. You have the best players here and the best facilities at the training ground and now I have to prove I am at this level too.”

ZHIRKOV IS READY TO PLAY

Yuri Zhirkov has claimed Chelsea’s medical staff denied him the chance to take part in the run-in despite him feeling he had recovered from injury.Zhirkov, 27, has endured a difficult spell at Stamford Bridge since signing from CSKA Moscow in 2009, with injuries hampering his opportunities at the club. He has suffered problems with his Achilles and knees this season and his most recent appearance for the club came from the bench in the 1-0 Champions League defeat at home to Manchester United at the start of April.