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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

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Bundled up: Ronaldo moves for the ball during a training session on Monday in Moscow. Real Madrid takes on CSKA Moscow in a Champions League match on Tuesday. AP

Napoli's Mazzarri wary of struggling Chelsea


NAPLES, Italy — Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri is fearful of a Chelsea backlash in the first leg of its Champions League last-16 match on Tuesday.

Chelsea heads into the game in Naples licking its wounds after dropping to fifth in the Premier League and only managing a 1-1 draw in the F.A. Cup on Saturday against second-tier Birmingham City.

"Chelsea is worse than us at the moment but I don't trust (form tables)," Mazzarri said. "We're maybe coming into the game better as a whole, but their team is one of champions, who are all used to the atmosphere of great international events. I'm sure that they will regroup for the occasion."

In fact, the Italian sees the potential for a Chelsea fight back, starting at the Stadio San Paolo.

"Paradoxically, their difficulties at the moment in English competitions could be an extra obstacle for us. Even when results weren't happening for us we never stopped playing well, but single episodes made everything go badly."

Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas acknowledged this week that he had lost the support of some players, but striker Didier Drogba insists they are all united in a bid to get the season back on track.

Midfielder Abe injured


OSAKA — Japan suffered an injury casualty for the second straight day as Urawa Reds midfielder Yuki Abe pulled out of the upcoming Iceland friendly on Tuesday.

Yokohama F. Marinos' Hiroyuki Taniguchi was called up to replace Abe, who is back in the J. League after spending the last one-and-a-half seasons in the English Championship with Leicester City.

Abe strained his left calf in training ahead of Friday's match at Nagai Stadium, just a night after Jubilo Iwata's Hidetaka Kanazono suffered a broken metatarsal.

The 23-year-old Kanazono on Tuesday was ruled out for three months. The new J. League season opens March 10.

"It's truly disappointing," Kanazono said in a statement through Jubilo.

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