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English Premiership

Blues galvanised by troubled times

LONDON, March 12 – Didier Drogba insists there has been no shortage of leadership inside the Chelsea dressing room during a troubled period for Carlo Ancelotti's side.Questions have been raised about the morale at Stamford Bridge in the wake of the revelations about skipper John Terry’s private life that led to the defender being stripped of the England captaincy.

The focus on Terry’s form meant recent mistakes were closely scrutinised and prompted the player’s emotional response after scoring in last week’s FA Cup victory over Stoke.

A series of individual errors by the centre-back and other key Blues players had contributed to successive defeats to Inter Milan and Manchester City and Terry reacted after clinching the win over Stoke by brandishing his captain’s armband.

Drogba, though, is adamant that responsibility for leading the team does not lie solely with Terry, claiming that a group of senior players each have a role to play as the season enters its decisive stage.

West Ham United visit Stamford Bridge this weekend and having fallen two points behind Manchester United, Drogba and company are desperate to claim three points and maintain the pressure on the leaders.

And with Inter Milan heading to west London next week for the return leg of the Champions League last 16 tie, the coming days could have a crucial impact on Chelsea’s hopes of landing silverware.

This week marks the latest challenge to confront Ancelotti’s team and Drogba maintains he is always happy to assume a senior role if required.

The Ivory Coast striker, 32, said: "You can be a leader on the pitch, you can be a leader in the dressing room.

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"There are different kinds of leadership and maybe I do speak when I feel it is important to. When you speak, after that you have to go out on the pitch and show and prove it.

"That is how people respect you and I think that is how you become a leader.

"When you speak and then you act, that is what gives you more courage and credibility.

"When I feel it I do it but the good thing is I am not the only one. When I speak, John Terry or Frank Lampard or Michael Ballack, or other players, we are really going in the same direction.

"That is why sometimes when we have a difficult first half we come back and we try to be stronger."

The clean sheet against Stoke came as a welcome boost for stand-in keeper Hilario who produced an unconvincing display in the 4-2 defeat to City and will again deputise for Petr Cech against West Ham.

Less likely to feature is England midfielder Joe Cole who is expected to leave the club as a free agent in the close-season after so far failing to agree a new contract.

West Ham’s plight at the foot of the table is looking increasingly desperate following last weekend’s home defeat to fellow strugglers Bolton.

Gianfranco Zola’s side sit three points above the relegation zone but must travel to face title challengers Arsenal after this trip to Stamford Bridge.

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Chelsea legend Zola said: "I know they are big teams and big games, and probably nobody is expecting anything from us, but football is strange.

"Last year we got a point in both games, so you never know what is going to happen. We are not going there already beaten, because I know that football can give you a surprise."

Full backs Julien Faubert and Herita Ilunga are both doubtful and are likely to be replaced by Jonathan Spector and Swiss youngster Fabio Daprela.

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