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 KNEE TROUBLES

Chelsea’s marquee signing over the summer was the £18m acquisition of Yuri Zhirkov from CSKA Moscow, but since his arrival he has played a whole 20 minutes of competitive football.

‘I suffered a painful blow on the knee early in the game against Germany,’ Zhirkov said to Paris Sportifs.

‘It ached a little afterwards, but there was no sign of a continuing problem.’

The problem with his right knee just won’t go away, and the problem is that no-one knows what is causing it. When he looked like he was close to full recovery he was allowed to join the Russia team to face Germany in a crucial World Cup Group match, and it seems that he aggravated the injury straight away.

Again it looked like the problem went away, he was finally picked to play Atletico Madrid in last weeks Champions League match, and, again, the problem returned.

‘After the match with Atletico, the knee swelled up terribly and the doctors couldn’t explain exactly what was happening.

‘There was even a theory that my body was reacting to a complete change in climate, food and every else.’

‘There was talk of an operation, but now, after pumping out liquid on the knee, it is more or less normal, thank God’

ZHIRKOV FIT IN A WEEK

Yuri Zhirkov has allayed fears that he needs an operation on his right knee.

Chelsea’s marquee summer signing has been unable to make his debut following an £18million move from CSKA Moscow.

The Russia winger, 26 today, hopes to return to training in the next few days but will not be fit to face Fulham in the west London derby on Sunday.

Instead, he is targetting the home tie against Burnley on Saturday week as the perfect game in which to make his bow.

Zhirkov has dismissed reports in Russia that he was set for a lengthy absence because of surgery.

‘I don’t know who spread these rumours, but they don’t correspond to reality,’ he said.

‘My condition has improved and the doctors say that in two or three days I will be able to return to training, although not fully. I’ll work on an individual program.

‘All will be clear after an examination on Thursday. I was feeling pain and noticeably limping when running, but now that’s behind me. I just need to tone up the leg.’

Zhirkov has been troubled by a compound knee injury that worsened after his appearance for Chelsea against AC Milan on the clubs’ pre-season US tour.

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.

ZHIRKOV REPLACED AGAINST MANU

Yuri Zhirkov was one of the players who tried to unsuccessfully change the match against Man Utd for Chelsea. It might be a little late for the liking of Chelsea fans, but Carlo Ancelotti has finally made some changes in the 70th minute of the match, bringing on left winger Florent Malouda and forward Nicolas Anelka for Yuri Zhirkov and Didier Drogba in like for like changes. Chelsea’s tactics seem to be working, so Ancelotti simply felt the need to replace some players with fresh legs.

The Malouda switch was an obvious one, but everyone was stunned when Didier Drogba’s name and not that of Fernando Torres was called to come off for Nicolas Anelka. Drogba has been much more effective than Torres in this match, and no one was more confused at the substitution than he was. Drogba shook the hand of his manager when he came off and was not disrespectful, but still, at the same time, looked absolutely dumbfounded that he had been substituted off. Frankly, so am I.

ZHIRKOV PLANS TO LEAVE CHELSEA

Yuri Zhirkov has said that he will be leaving Chelsea if he does not get any chances in the future. The Russia midfielder, who joined the Premier League champions from CSKA Moscow for £18m in July 2009 is quoted in the Sun as saying: “My only target at the moment is to get back into the main Chelsea team. If I’m successful with that, all the other issues will resolve themselves.

“But if I fail to achieve that between now and the summer, I will start thinking of other possibilities.”

The 27-year-old has featured in 17 matches for Chelsea this season, most recently as a late substitute in their 2-0 Champions League victory over FC Copenhagen on Tuesday. “My condition has visibly improved,” added Zhirkov.

YURI INJURIED

Chelsea’s Yuri Zhirkov is suffering with his calf injury so he is a doubt to play against Fulham. Luiz, signed from Benfica on transfer deadline day, made his debut as a second-half substitute in last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool, and manager Carlo Ancelotti has now confirmed the Brazil international will be in his starting XI at Craven Cottage.

Jose Bosingwa could be the man to make way for Luiz, with Ancelotti revealing the player is doubtful with an unspecified injury, while Alex (knee) and Yuri Zhirkov (calf) remain sidelined.

And the Italian is expected to stick with the attacking trio of Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka despite their disappointing showing against Liverpool last time out.

ZHIRKOV FAILS TO RECOVER

Yuri Zhirkov has not recovered from his calf injury yet and will not play against Bolton. Frank Lampard will miss out once again for Chelsea, while skipper John Terry is a doubt ahead of their journey to the North West.

Lampard has been unable to shake off a calf injury, leading to his absence, while Terry is expected to be available despite picking up a back problem.

Ancelotti remains without Alex (knee), Yuri Zhirkov (calf) and Yossi Benayoun (Achilles).

ZHIRKOV CLOSE TO RETURN

Chelsea midfielder Yuri Zhirkov is close to returning from his injury after he trained with his teammates. Mikel has resumed training less than three weeks after he suffered a knee ligament injury in the 3-1 defeat against Arsenal. He was expected to be out for a month but the midfielder could be ready for the trip to Bolton on 24 January.

Yuri Zhirkov, who hasn’t featured since November due to a calf and Achilles problem, is in light training while Alex is back at the club after an operation in Brazil on a knee injury and is on target to return next month.

Fabio Capello’s future as the national team manager

Fabio Capello’s future as the national team manager of pressure is under doubt after a 1-0 defeat against Austria left the fans in extreme displeasure against the manager.

Despite having a world-class coach like Capello in their ranks, Russia have been struggling to live up to the achievements of past successes. Under the regime of Guus Hiddink, the national team reached the semifinals of the Euro 2008. Since then, it has been a downhill path for the national team and the Russian Football Federation. Due to significant a lot of debts, the RFU has been unable to pay Capello for the last eight months.

Yet, the national team boss has not been stepping down from his role and has continued to manage the team. The recent defeat against Austria came despite some extreme attacking potential within the team. Russia even had attacking full-back Yuri Zhirkov running up and down on the flanks. However, they do not create much opportunities and suffered a loss that sees them fall eight points behind Austria in the table. They are third in the group and would have to go through a qualification stage in order to reach the Euro 2016.

“We have already made a certain decision on Capello’s future. But there is the executive committee of the Russian Football Union (RFS). I think in the very near future one of these bodies will look at this question in detail,” said Russian sports minister VitalyMutko.“I don’t have a problem with talking to my employers about this question.However, I have worked for eight months for free. Now they owe me for another two months. This is not a problem for me. If I was only interested in the money then I would have complained to FIFA a long time ago,” said Capello in response.