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Maradona primes Chelsea

Maradona stunned the Blues players by turning up to watch training at the west London club's Cobham complex on Monday.

sports Updated: Jan 29, 2008 13:44 IST

Diego Maradona has fired up Chelsea going into Wednesday's clash with Reading at Stamford Bridge - the Hand of God intervening to make the visitors' trip even more daunting.

Maradona, who knows Chelsea manager Avram Grant of old, stunned the Blues players by turning up to watch training at the west London club's Cobham complex on Monday.

And though the 47-year-old did not take part, the former Argentina striker who has been troubled by drugs misuse and other health problems, buoyed the English Premier League title chasers as they prepared to tackle the Royals.

"He is a legend, a hero for everyone, and a fantastic player," Blues striker Andriy Shevchenko told the club's website, after he and midfielder Michael Ballack returned to training.

"He has had a difficult life, but he is doing well now. He looks good, he has lost a lot of weight, and feels much better. He plays some golf like me, but I can't play much right now. Now I start to train and feel good."

Maradona watched on as Petr Cech lost a "crossbar challenge" game before the goalkeeper to return to the changing rooms in just his gloves and underpants as a forfeit.

The Blues are third in the Premier League table, four points behind leaders Manchester United and Arsenal. Reading, meanwhile, are 14th, two points above the relegation zone.

The training ground arrivals at Chelsea and Reading summed up the gulf between the Blues and Royals.

While the man often considered the game's greatest player rolled into Cobham, at Hogwood Park, Reading boss Steve Coppell unveiled new signing Jimmy Kebe, whom he has seen on video and said needs to improve.

The Mali winger was bought from French Ligue One strugglers Lens, and has been grafting away on loan at Ligue Two side Boulogne.

"Our scouts' reports were all positive but he is not the finished article. He is going to need work and have to adjust to the English style of football," said Coppell, who bought the 24-year-old for an undisclosed fee.

"I haven't seen him live, although I have seen tapes. We have had right-side problems and he can play right or left.

"He has pace, which I always like, and it was an opportunity to bring another player in."

Besides Czech midfielder Marek Matejovsky, also acquired for an undisclosed fee, Kebe is the only January transfer window arrival at the Madejski Stadium as they battle against the drop..

At the other end of the table, Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea's big January signing, is targeting a clean sweep of Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup silverware.

"I hope this season that my wait will come to an end and I will have more trophies," said the France striker, signed from Bolton for 15 million pounds (30 million dollars).

"It's a strange feeling for me because it's like another world at Chelsea to where I was. I was fighting against relegation and now I am fighting to win things.

"It will be very difficult for us to win everything, but that is our aim."

Chelsea, already through to this season's League Cup final, have won their last eight matches, a 2-1 victory at Wigan on Saturday sending them through to the FA Cup fifth round.

Reading, by constrast, have gone seven games without victory, winning just two of their last 14 games and were beaten 2-0 at home by Manchester United in their last game, on January 19.

The Royals, who have never won at Stamford Bridge, have to look back to a second-tier 3-1 win in 1930 for their last league victory over Chelsea.