Grant ready for 'difficult' Cup tie

Chelsea manager says team 'must improve' as it begins title defense at Hull City tonight.

By JEREMY LAST, AP
September 26, 2007 02:10
4 minute read.
Grant ready for 'difficult' Cup tie

avram grant 248 88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

New Chelsea coach Avraham Grant on Tuesday issued a call to his players to improve following a run of disappointing results in European and domestic competitions. Chelsea starts its defense of the League Cup on Wednesday needing a convincing victory over Hull City to stop its season from lurching even further into crisis. The Blues were already winless in three games before parting with manager Jose Mourinho last week. They then lost at Manchester United 2-0 in the Premier League on Sunday without mustering a single shot on goal, so victory at the League Championship team on Wednesday is essential for Grant. Despite another disappointing performance, Grant, who has never before coached a team outside of his native Israel, refused to blame his players. On Tuesday, he did, however, note that Chelsea must improve. "We don't have time to work so we need to speak about this," Grant told reporters. "We need to do something to build the style through training. It is a process. It will not come in one day, but I know I don't have a long time to find it." The former Israel national team coach added that he believes he can change the fortunes of the team. "With the base we had before, we need to change something and improve the style of the team. I think we can do it with these players," Grant said. "We will see even this year, in a short time, Chelsea will be better than the beginning of the year." With the London side hampered by injuries to Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, and without a win since August 25, Hull will be confident of a better result than when the teams last met. Chelsea won 6-1 at Hull in the FA Cup in 1999. Hull's fortunes have improved since that match, which was at the club's old Boothferry Park stadium. It is now installed at the 25,000-seat KC Stadium and has several players with Premier League experience. Nick Barmby, Michael Bridges and Dean Windass both spent much of their careers in the top division, while Henrik Pedersen and recently acquired playmaker Jay Jay Okocha will be up against their former Bolton teammate, Israeli international defender Tal Ben-Haim who moved to Chelsea in the summer. "It's going to be a very hard game," Ben-Haim said. "We need to be ready because it's going to be difficult. We come very concentrated with a lot of desire to win the game." Even if Chelsea comes away with a strong win over Hull, the pressure on Grant is not likely to wane with a Premier League match against Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Israeli will then take his side to Valencia's Mestalla Stadium next Wednesday for a crucial Champions League tie. Grant said he has been preparing meticulously for the Hull game. "I have looked at videos of Hull and it is a very good team, very organized," he said. "I know them and I will look at more videos later. It will be difficult because we play away. I expect a very difficult game tomorrow." Hull warmed up for Wednesday's match, its biggest of the season so far, with a 1-0 League Championship loss at Sheffield Wednesday. On Tuesday, Grant reacted to the confirmation that midfielder John Mikel Obi's sending off against Manchester United on Sunday has been upheld. The English FA announced on Tuesday afternoon that Chelsea's appeal had been unsuccessful, meaning Mikel will miss three domestic games - Wednesday's trip to Hull in the Carling Cup, followed by league games against Fulham and Bolton. "The referee has made three mistakes and one the FA could correct and they didn't, so I am very disappointed and surprised," said Grant. "One of the things I always teach my players and even my children is that when you make a mistake, you can admit it." Tottenham also is seeking victory in England's second-tier cup competition to ease the pressure after a poor start, although Spurs have a tougher task than Chelsea when they host Premier League rival Middlesbrough. Tottenham is in the Premier League relegation zone after one win from its opening six matches and has been dogged all season by rumors that coach Martin Jol is about to be fired or quit. Jol is likely to field a strong side at White Hart Lane, with striker Jermain Defoe a contender for a recall after scoring two goals in last week's 6-1 UEFA Cup win over Anorthosis Famagusta. Defoe was dropped from the squad for Saturday's 1-1 draw at Bolton, but Jol needs his goals. "It's very important to have certain players," Jol said. "Jermain scored twice against Anorthosis Famagusta and he's pushing for a place again, so that's good." Manchester United hosts a Coventry team still struggling to replicate last season's free scoring form, but looking miserly in defense. United has conceded just three goals in nine games in all competitions.


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