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Chelsea hold the key for Stam

Published: Tuesday 9 December 2003, 11.47CET
Jaap Stam pins S.S. Lazio's UEFA Champions League hopes on a good display from Chelsea FC.

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Published: Tuesday 9 December 2003, 11.47CET

Chelsea hold the key for Stam

Jaap Stam pins S.S. Lazio's UEFA Champions League hopes on a good display from Chelsea FC.
By Richard Sullivan

Dutch international Jaap Stam has urged Chelsea FC to take their final UEFA Champions League match seriously so that his S.S. Lazio team have a chance of progressing in the competition.

Group permutations
The English side have already qualified for the knockout stage but if they win or draw against Besiktas JK in Gelsenkirchen and S.S. Lazio win at AC Sparta Praha, then it will be the Italians who will take second place in Group G.

'Appetite and motivation'
"We really hope that Chelsea will take their game seriously because if they lose to the Turkish side, we will be out irrespective of how we do," Stam told uefa.com. "If you look at the two sides on paper there is no doubt Chelsea should beat Besiktas, but they must take a full squad with them for the game. They need a draw to win the group, so they should have the appetite and motivation to win."

Faith in Chelsea
"Unfortunately our previous results have left us in a position where qualification is no longer in our sole control and I am certainly praying that Claudio Ranieri will take the match seriously," added Stam. "I'm sure he will because Chelsea are a professional team and I have few doubts they'll want to win the group."

Fit to play
Stam has declared himself fit for tonight's game against Sparta in Prague, having recovered from the ankle injury that has blighted much of his season. He broke down following the Netherlands' UEFA EURO 2004™ first leg play-off defeat by Scotland last month but came through 90 minutes against Juventus FC at the weekend.

Successful treatment
"The ankle is much better," he said. "I'd been carrying the injury for a while and although it was causing me pain I was able to play on with it. But eventually it came to a point where I really needed to do something about it because playing was only making the ankle worse. Thankfully, the rest and intensive treatment I've been receiving over the past fortnight have paid off and if I don't suffer any negative reaction, I will play. I cannot stress how important this match is."

Tough customers
With the same points as Lazio but a better goal difference, Sparta will view the game with equal significance and the 2-2 draw between the sides in Rome suggests that the task ahead will be extremely difficult, regardless of Chelsea's fixture against the Turkish champions.

Sparta strength
"We know it will not be easy to win over there in front of their fans, especially as they can still qualify if they beat us," Stam said. "When we played in Rome at the start of the competition I was very impressed by them. They gave us a hard time. All we can do is give 400 per cent and hope that fate will allow us to carry on in the Champions League."

Feared striker
Lazio will need to tighten up defensively if they are to progress, having conceded nine goals in the competition, and Stam believes his former Manchester United FC team-mate Karel Poborský is the man the Italians fear most. "Karel was superb against us in the Stadio Olimpico and he will be the key man again," he said. "He had an up-and-down time at Old Trafford, but has done very well since he left. It's no surprise to me because Karel has always been a top-quality player."

Last updated: 09/12/03 21.10CET

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