Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Chelsea manager Grant wants play-off decider

SoccerNews in English Premier League 11 May 2008

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Avram Grant believes Chelsea and Manchester United should decide the destiny of the Premier League title with a winner-takes-all play-off if both teams finish level on points after Sunday's dramatic finale.

United will pip Chelsea to the title on goal difference if the leaders win at Wigan and Grant's side beat Bolton at Stamford Bridge.

But Grant insists that is an unfair way to decide a season's work. He would prefer the system used in Italy, where any title, relegation or European qualifying issues are decided by a play-off match if the teams are level on points.

The Israeli even joked that Chelsea's Champions League final against United in Moscow on May 21 could serve as a showdown for both trophies.

“I must admit sometimes Manchester United play very good football and score a lot of goals,” Grant said. “But I prefer the system in Italy. If you have the same points you play the other team.

“I know I have an interest now to say that, but I like it more than just for that. Sometimes against the weakest teams you score more goals.

“If you have the same points it means you are on the same level so you have to play to see who is better. We could play winners takes all in Moscow!”

Grant's suggestion has no chance of becoming reality this season, so Chelsea's failure to keep pace with United's goal spree could be costly, leaving him to rue injuries that deprieved him of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard for long periods.

“We played more attractive football but you don't push a button and suddenly score lot of goals. We won 6-0, 4-0 and 3-0 several times,” Grant said. “When you miss so many players the target is just to win games, especially in the beginning.

“When we beat Derby 6-0 I said to one of the big players I didn't like his game because we needed to score more goals.

“He said 'why?'. I said maybe at the end of the season we will need it. He came to me last week and said 'how did you know?'. I didn't know but I knew we needed to get more goals.”

Grant suffered a blow earlier this week when the Premier League confirmed that Nicolas Anelka wouldn't be able to play against his former club because he initially moved to west London on loan.

Ricardo Carvalho is also a doubt with a back injury following the Portugal defender's awkward fall at Newcastle on Monday.

Chelsea's title battle with Sir Alex Ferguson could easily spoil a 15-year friendship between the managers, but Grant insists he is already planning to share a bottle of Israeli wine with the United boss before the Champions League final.

“I have promised him an Israeli wine and we are going to drink it before the final. But it doesn't matter. I am friends with other managers and I still want to beat them,” Grant said.

That wine will have a bitter taste for Grant if his side don't beat Bolton. It would be unforgivable for Chelsea not to extend their unbeaten run to 21 games, even if United take the three points needed to lift their 17th English title.

But, despite Ferguson's suggestion that Bolton were already celebrating their survival, Gary Megson's team need to avoid a heavy defeat to avoid any chance of being sucked into the relegation zone.

After a run of three wins in four matches, Bolton will fancy their chances of doing United a favour. Kevin Davies will pose the biggest threat to Chelsea and the muscular Wanderers striker admitted his side are ready to play ugly if it ensures their survival.

“It's only goal difference now that can affect us so we'll go to Chelsea and put 10 men behind the ball,” Davies said. “Hopefully, if we do that we'll be OK. We have to go down to Chelsea and do a job.”

Grant certainly won't have any qualms about winning ugly if it means Chelsea finish a nerve-jangling final day as champions.

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