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Chelsea wins without benched Drogba
by Paul Kennedy, January 19th, 2009 7AM



[ENGLAND] Chelsea remained in the Premier League race with a 2-1 win over Stoke City on goals by Juliano Belletti and Frank Lampard scored in the final four minutes, but the win was overshadowed by Didier Drogba's continuing absence from the lineup and the news that England midfielder Joe Cole will miss the remainder of the season after injuring his knee in Wednesday's FA Cup replay against Southend United.

Drogba wasn't in the Chelsea squad for the games against Southend and Stoke after having a poor game in the 3-0 loss to Manchester United.

Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari wouldn't go into why he used teenagers Franco Di Santo and Miroslav Stoch against Stoke and didn't have Drogba dress.

"I didn't have Drogba on the bench, I had Stoch and Di Santo and they gave me what I wanted," Scolari said. "I didn't have Drogba on the bench because it was my choice. Nothing has happened between me and Drogba. He is training every day. It is only my choice. Next week, I will decide whether to play him or stay with the same 18 players. It is my choice. I don't have anything against Drogba, I don't have anything against any player in the club. I choose my players. I am the coach and my choice is final. And my choice was to use Di Santo and Stoch."

Manchester United momentarily moved to the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Bolton on Saturday, its fifth straight league win.

The shutout was the 10th in a row for United, which was without four first-team defenders.

Liverpool, which trails United by one point, hosts Everton on Monday (TV: Setanta Sports USA, live, 2 pm). With American Tim Howard in goal, Everton has run off six straight shutouts of its own.

Chelsea is third, a point behind Liverpool, and Aston Villa is a point behind the Blues in fourth.


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