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From: The Daily Mail

After being run into the ground on bone hard pitches in Los Angeles last month, Chelsea's players have more than blisters to complain about as they gear up for the visit of Birmingham on Sunday.

Two sessions a day in the U.S. took their toll on Jose Mourinho's squad and the manager is paying a heavy price for a gruelling, if lucrative, pre-season programme.

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The Stamford Bridge casualty list

Lampard stays positive as Terry heads Chelsea's injury list.

The injury list now numbers 14, and although one member of the Stamford Bridge personnel insisted that "they are just the usual pre-season ailments", Mourinho will have his work cut out to patch them up before sending them into battle against Steve Bruce's side.

Some are serious injuries, some are minor, but according to Sir Clive Woodward, who masterminded England's rugby World Cup triumph in 2003, some could have been avoided. He believes the injuries Chelsea have sustained are more than just a coincidence.

Sir Clive, a Chelsea supporter who is in Beijing as part of his role as the director of elite performance at the British Olympic Association, said: "Put it this way, when I picked the team for the rugby World Cup Final, I picked from a squad of 30 fully fit players.

"There is a lot you can do to prevent injuries. Footballers often train when they are not 100 per cent fit. When I was England head coach, my fitness coach Dave Reddin would do all sorts of tests on the players and if he told me to leave someone out because they were not fully fit, I'd make that decision.

"Part of being a good coach is actually being able to tell people not to play. I can't comment on individual players at Chelsea because I don't know their circumstances but there is more to injuries than sheer bad luck. With the right management, they can be avoided."

Chelsea players were still suffering jet lag when they travelled to Feyenoord for a friendly 48 hours after an 11-hour flight back to London from Los Angeles.

Since then, they have been beaten by Rangers at Ibrox, won in Denmark against Brondby and then lost the Community Shield to Manchester United on penalties.

While the players were surprised that Andriy Shevchenko was omitted from the squad to face United, other high-profile players were casualties of the demanding preseason programme.

Michael Ballack, who took the unusual step of publicly committing his future to the club yesterday after being linked with Real Madrid, Arjen Robben and Didier Drogba, who is sidelined for a fortnight with a knee injury and faces a race to make the showdown at Liverpool on August 19, are all on the treatment table.

Woodward, who spent two years as performance director at Southampton, added: 'If you are doing things like flying back from America and playing 24 hours later then these things can happen.

"Even the fittest players can get injured if they are being put under different stresses.

"You can bring in all the people you like as part of your backroom team, but ultimately it is down to the manager to make a decision on individual players."

In contrast to Chelsea, Arsenal have sustained relatively few preseason injuries with a vastly differing approach. In the Emirates Cup, which the Gunners hosted last month, Arsene Wenger fielded two completely different teams on consecutive days and he did the same in last weekend's Amsterdam Tournament.

Not only did they win both competitions, but the real benefit of staying so close to home was that it kept the injury count to a minimum.

Emmanuel Adebayor is the only casualty and they are confident that Tomas Rosicky will be fit for Sunday's clash with Fulham.

At the Bridge, John Terry continued to play for Chelsea with a broken toe during their two-week stay in LA and it took the club nearly a month to diagnose a similar problem with Frank Lampard. Chelsea will now be without their influential skipper, who twisted medial knee ligaments in training on Saturday, and while Lampard intends to play through the pain, he is a risk.

The England midfielder, who captained the club at Wembley and will keep the role against Birmingham, said: "In injury terms, we are not in the best shape compared to last season.

"I've had to play through some pain, but it is not too much so I feel ready to go. It is not ideal to start the season with injuries. We are calling on a bit of character early on, but we know our ambitions."

Those ambitions include wresting the Premier League title back from United but they will have to match Sir Alex Ferguson's side stride for stride in the opening weeks of the season. United won 11 of their opening 13 games last season and that run proved decisive.

At Old Trafford, Rio Ferdinand cast doubt on the ability of United's title rivals to mould their new players into an instantly successful team.

Ferdinand said: "Any year it will be hard to win the League. The fact that other teams have spent a lot of money poses questions for us. But will they gel? Will it just be harder for their managers to cope with loads of players in the squad?

"We'll see by the time Christmas comes which teams have dealt with the new acquisitions. I don't really care what Chelsea do - I'm happy with what we're doing. What Chelsea do has no bearing on how we approach the season."

Lampard voiced the belief that Chelsea are convinced they can do it, but he admitted: "It is really important for us to get a good start. This year is going to be more competitive than ever. Liverpool have spent a lot of money, Arsenal are looking sharp and we can't afford to fall behind Manchester United at the start.

"It's enjoyable having that feeling of getting something back that we want. The League is the priority."
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