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Drogba injury a worry: Grant

sports Updated: Dec 09, 2007 10:44 IST
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Avram Grant reckons Chelsea are braced for a testing spell without leading scorer Didier Drogba after his side laboured to a 2-0 win over Sunderland.

The Ivory Coast international has undergone surgery on a long-standing knee injury and, while the extent of his lay-off remains uncertain, he is expected to be out until January at the earliest.

Saturday's result at Stamford Bridge may have suggested Chelsea have little to fear in Drogba's absence but the reality is rather different.

Victory against a wretchedly unambitious Sunderland was virtually assured as soon as Andriy Shevchenko headed in Salomon Kalou's precise cross in the 25th minute but, for long periods, Chelsea looked decidedly uninspired.

Without Drogba as their focal point, there was a lack of focus to many of their attacks and, despite his goal, Shevchenko possesses neither the mobility or the muscle to terrorise the Premier League's elite sides.

With meetings against two of the division's in-form teams - Arsenal and Blackburn - and a League Cup quarter-final encounter with Liverpool looming large, Grant has every right to be anxious.

"It will not be easy but I did not come to this club for an easy life," he said after a win which left Chelsea three points behind leaders Arsenal.

"We didn't want Didier to be injured but, if you can say this about an operation, it looks quite good at the moment.

"We need to wait and see how long-term it is. We want him to feel well and for his knee to be okay. If he can play in (next month's) African Nations Cup then he will play but his health is the most important thing.

"I never want one of my players to have an operation but sometimes there is nothing you can do. He had a problem and we decided to wait a few days, but he locked his knee again on Friday so we had to get him to have an operation.

"It will not be easy but we have good strikers at this club - not just Shevchenko, who scored a good goal, but also Claudio Pizarro. Then we also have Kalou who is doing well."

Grant has to look on the bright side, but his pitch-side demeanour told a different story.

Chelsea's lethargic second-half performance prompted the Israeli to repeatedly bellow reprimands to his players and against more polished opponents than Sunderland his team might have suffered for such an approach.

Instead, the Wearsiders - for all their effort - hardly threatened and Chelsea were able to enjoy a stress-free final 15 minutes when Lampard converted the penalty awarded for Danny Higginbotham's tug on Alex's jersey.

Sunderland's misery was made complete in the dying moments when Liam Miller was sent-off after a clash with Pizarro, although visiting manager Roy Keane said Chelsea's players had helped spark the confrontation by over-reacting to Miller's initial foul on John Terry.

"Liam should not have raised his hands but the initial foul was not bad.

"Judging by the reactions of Terry and Pizarro, you clearly cannot tackle the England captain.

"They made a big issue out of it and had a go at Liam but there was nothing malicious about it. Now Liam will miss three games which will hurt us."

Sunderland remain mired in relegation trouble and Keane admits he will have to wield the chequebook when the transfer window reopens in January.

"We certainly have to try and strengthen the squad," said the former Manchester United captain.

"We're hopeful but identifying and signing the right players is easier said than done."