Chelsea players 'right' to crowd referee, says Grant
Here, in this old harbour town that is a haven of fairy stories, Avram Grant spun a tall tale of his own yesterday. The Chelsea manager claimed that his team had been "right" to crowd the referee, Andre Marriner, following the weekend dismissal of Michael Essien – even though it has earned the club a second charge of failing to control their players.
His justification, claiming that Chelsea are being "targeted" by referees, may provoke its own response from the Football Association who confirmed that Marriner had included the intimidatory action, led by John Terry, in his match report for Saturday's league game against Derby County.
Chelsea have until 12 December to respond but, if found guilty, are likely to face a far stiffer fine than the £30,000 they paid following a red card for John Obi Mikel in Grant's first match in charge against Manchester United in September.
Essien will miss three matches for violent conduct. Grant believes Mikel's dismissal and that of Didier Drogba against Fulham earlier this season were also wrong. "They are not red cards," he said. "I don't blame the players for questioning the referee as the decision was unfair. They did it in the right way. For 30 seconds they said something and then the game continued. What's wrong with this? I'm thinking about speaking to the FA, but I want to do it in a positive way. I don't know why we're being targeted."
The issue side-tracked preparations for tonight's Champions League tie away to Rosenborg with Chelsea needing a victory to guarantee their passage into the knock-out stages. It was the surprise 1-1 draw with the Norwegian champions at Stamford Bridge that ended Jose Mourinho's reign.
"There's been a big difference since then," said Grant, although that should be fully tested by the hosts who can also progress from Group B with a win.
Drogba has shaken off a knee injury and will reclaim his place from the hapless Andrei Shevchenko.
Probable teams: Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Belletti, Alex, Terry, A Cole; Essien, Makelele, Lampard; J Cole, Drogba, Kalou.
Rosenborg (4-3-1-2): Hirschfeld; Stoor, Riseth, Kvarme, Dorsin; Skjelbred, Tettey, Traore; Sapara; Kone, Iversen.
Referee: O Benquerença (Portugal)
Remaining fixtures: Today: Rosenborg v Chelsea; Valencia v Schalke 04. 11 December: Chelsea v Valencia; Schalke 04 v Rosenborg.