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Chelsea are banking on Italian job

Veron's Lazio connection can prove vital for Chelsea
Veron's Lazio connection can prove vital for Chelsea

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Chelsea's Italian experience could give them the edge when they host Lazio in the Champions League on Wednesday, their Roman manager Claudio Ranieri said.

Ranieri, who played for Lazio's city rivals AS Roma and other clubs before turning to coaching, can explain how Italian football works -- "but I'm not playing on the pitch tomorrow."

He added after final training: "Seba (Juan Sebastian Veron) and the other Italian-experienced players know the Italian mentality very well."

Chelsea's European ambitions were dented three weeks ago when they crashed 2-0 at home to Turkish champions Besiktas after winning their first Group G tie at Sparta Prague.

"You cannot make mistakes in the Champions League," Ranieri said. "We dominated the match and made two mistakes and they scored twice.

"The lesson to learn is to pay attention for 90 minutes because in front of you are great champions."

Eight of Chelsea's multi-national squad have played in Italy and three -- Argentine duo Veron and Hernan Crespo and Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini -- are former Lazio signings.

Midfielder Veron, who moved to Chelsea from Manchester United in the close season for 15 million, played 15 Champions League games for Lazio from 1999 to 2001 and said the fixture would have added spice for him.

"I will have extra stimulus. It will be a special match. Once I get on the pitch, though, I'll be concentrating on the game and I will forget about those feelings," Veron said.

Veron is one of more than a dozen stars signed after Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the west London club last July, saying he wanted success both domestically and in Europe.

Chelsea will be without French trio Marcel Desailly, Emmanuel Petit and William Gallas against the group leaders -- and England defender John Terry replaces Desailly as captain.

Ranieri keeps faith in keeper Cudicini whose howler allowed Thierry Henry to score Arsenal's late Premiership winner on Saturday.


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