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Chelsea face Champions League final midfield crisis

By Robin Scott-Elliot

Chelsea expect to have Gary Cahill and David Luiz fit to occupy the centre of their defence for the Champions League final in Munich, but the make-up of their midfield will prove more problematic for Roberto di Matteo in the wake of the suspension of Ramires and Raul Meireles.

Cahill pulled a hamstring after only 12 minutes in the Nou Camp in Tuesday night's 2-2 draw and has three weeks to recover in time for the 19 May final.

The club are waiting on the results of a scan on Cahill, but Di Matteo has already suggested the England centre-half will be ready for Munich. Luiz has missed the last three games with a hamstring, but played in all the Champions League games ahead of Barcelona.

With Branislav Ivanovic's silly booking ruling him out of the final it leaves Jose Bosingwa, who shone after replacing Cahill, favourite to take the right-back slot. Should either Cahill or Luiz fail to recover, Bosingwa would be the likely choice at centre-half; should neither recover, Paulo Ferreira would be pressed into service with Michael Essien a contender to plug gaps at the back if the worst-case scenario comes to pass.

Ramires, who scored with aplomb in Barcelona, and Meireles have been regular midfield fixtures alongside Frank Lampard in the Champions League. Essien or Oriol Romeu are the likeliest candidates to take on the Meireles role with the inconsistent pair of Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou, who played the last half-hour on Tuesday with a fortitude that has not always been apparent in his six years at Stamford Bridge, filling in for Ramires.

John Terry's absence may be most keenly felt in Munich but Ramires will be missed too. The Brazilian has grown into his role and he – and to a lesser extent Meireles – offer crucial dynamism in midfield to make up for Lampard's inevitable slowing down.

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