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08.04.2007 Players Abroad

Essien in Euro fitness battle

By gfa
Essien in Euro fitness battle

Ghanaian Michael Essien is battling to be fit for Chelsea's Champions League trip to Valencia on Tuesday but he insists his team-mates can triumph without him.

The 24-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a knee injury since an FA Cup tie on 11 March but is getting ever closer to a return.

His availability would be a welcome boost for coach Jose Mourinho as Essien's thrust in midfield was notably absent in the 1-1 first-leg draw with Valencia on Wednesday.

Yet the Ghanaian believes Chelsea's fighting spirit will secure a second semi-final berth in three years under Mourinho.

"For me, one of the best things about this Chelsea team is that we never give up," said Essien, who has never progressed past the Champions League quarter-finals.

"Even when we go behind, we can change things around and still come back right up until the very end.

"Luckily, we've got the experience and the strength in the team to be able to do that and it's helped us on many occasions.

"But we work really hard to get into the kind of condition where we can keep going and going.

"We have to believe that even though we are away from home in the second leg, we can still score goals.

"We have the belief in ourselves that we can do it and get through to the semi-final."

Victory would keep Chelsea on course for success in three more competitions this season.

The Blues have already bagged the Carling Cup and they are still in the hunt for the Premiership title, the FA Cup and, of course, the Champions League.

It is a situation that Essien has never experienced before but is determined to enjoy.

"We've played more games than any other club in England," he said.

"Every three days, we've had to play a game and for us the intensity of every game is so great because we are fighting all these competitions and want to do well.

"But I don't find it too hard - my system has got used to it. And football is what I love doing.

"I love playing in as many big games at possible. It also means we're doing well.

"Hopefully, we can win the maximum number of trophies."