Injury blues unsettle high flyers Chelsea

LONDON - Chelsea should be brimming with confidence after an unbeaten start to the season that has taken them to the top of the Premier League.

LONDON - Chelsea should be brimming with confidence after an unbeaten start to the season that has taken them to the top of the Premier League.

Instead, injuries to key players have unsettled the squad ahead of Sunday's match against high-flying Aston Villa.

Chelsea were without Joe Cole, Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole for Wednesday's Champions League meeting with FCR Cluj and lost Didier Drogba to what could be a long-term knee injury during the match.

Defenders John Terry and Alex were also hurt during the match, suggesting that Chelsea will do well this weekend not to lose ground on joint log leaders Liverpool, who are at Manchester City on Sunday.

"I need to think for the game on Sunday," said Luiz Felipe Scolari, who took his unbeaten streak as Chelsea coach to nine games with a 0-0 draw at Cluj.

Drogba is certainly out of Sunday's match and Scolari is waiting to hear how long the Ivory Coast striker is set to be on the sidelines.

Villa manager Martin O'Neill's team hit third place after Saturday's 2-1 win over Sunderland.

Unlike Chelsea, Liverpool have few problems ahead of their meeting with Manchester City. Tied with the Blues on 14 points - one more than Villa - Liverpool easily beat PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League in midweek to continue their own unbeaten start to the season.

Defending champions Manchester United are at Blackburn tomorrow, when Arsenal are at Sunderland.

Manchester United travel to Blackburn without midfielder Paul Scholes, who damaged medial ligaments in the team's midweek Champions League match at Aalborg, but have strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney in form after both scored in that 3-0 win.

Also tomorrow, Fulham are at West Bromwich Albion, and Middlesbrough visit Wigan.

In Sunday's other games, Newcastle visit Everton, Stoke visit Portsmouth, Bolton visit West Ham, and Hull visit troubled bottom club Tottenham Hotspur. - Sapa-AP

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