Chelsea expect Cole to be fit for final

MOSCOW Wed May 21, 2008 12:09pm BST

Chelsea's defender Ashley Cole receives medical help after he got injured during a practice session for the upcoming Champions League final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Chelsea's defender Ashley Cole receives medical help after he got injured during a practice session for the upcoming Champions League final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow May 20, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Chelsea defender Ashley Cole should be fit enough to face Manchester United in Wednesday's Champions League final despite injuring his ankle in a training session on Tuesday.

A statement on Chelsea's website (www.chelseafc.com) said: "In a challenge with Claude Makelele in front of hundreds of cameras and the world football press, Ashley Cole hurt his right ankle.

"He was treated, it was tested, then strapped. After consultation between Avram Grant, club doctor Bryan English and physios Dave Hancock and Thierry Laurent, Cole resumed and took full part in the final training game, only disappearing down the tunnel after the players had listened to (manager) Avram (Grant)'s address and been stood-down for a final kickaround."

Cole's fellow England defender Wayne Bridge is available to replace him if he does not fully recover in time, but Cole is expected to be fit and play in his second Champions League final after being on the losing side with Arsenal two years ago.

United go into the game with no injury worries and start as slight favourites after pipping Grant's men to the Premier League title earlier this month.

United's centre back Nemanja Vidic sat out their final training session on Tuesday night at the Luzhniki Stadium but he is fit to play.

Manager Alex Ferguson says he has known for several days what his starting line-up will be and the hardest part of the build-up will be telling some of his players that not only are they not in the starting line-up but they will not be among the substitutes either.

"I think UEFA should bring in an 11-man bench as there is at the World Cup," he said. "Because it is very difficult to leave six or seven players out."

Paul Scholes, who missed the 1999 final against Bayern Munich because of suspension, will start the match, while Ryan Giggs, who played in the 1999 game, is likely to be on the bench. If he appears as expected he will overtake Bobby Charlton's all-time club record of 758 appearances.

Chelsea will be desperate to win to show a further return on the hundreds of millions of pounds invested in the club by their billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich, by lifting the European Cup for the first time.

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)

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