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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Chelsea's uphill battle
John Terry (left) and Jody Morris
Terry and Morris are important players for Chelsea

The 2002/03 season was always going to be an important one for Chelsea.

Now the high-profile court case involving players John Terry and Jody Morris has left them with a big task on and off the pitch.

After missing out on the Champions League for the last two seasons, the club is in dire need of a return on their heavy investments.

Jody is very important for Chelsea in the future
Claudio Ranieri

The financial problems currently facing football are particularly evident at Chelsea, who are millions of pounds in debt.

The transfer talk at Stamford Bridge this summer centred on the likelihood of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen moving out rather than big name players coming in.

So the court case involving Terry and Morris came at a crucial time for the club.

Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri has long been a believer in Terry's ability.

A former England under-21 captain, he made his Chelsea debut in the Gianluca Vialli era.

But it is under the club's second Italian coach that he has emerged as a future captain.

Last season few players featured more regularly than Terry, who was more certain of a starting berth than French international Marcel Desailly.

Ahead of the current campaign Ranieri made it clear that once again he planned to build his defence around a player who has been catapulted through the ranks at Chelsea.

On Saturday The Blues started their campaign without Terry, who is recovering from minor knee surgery.

In his absence Chelsea looked defensively frail in their 3-2 win over Charlton at The Valley.

Dennis Wise
Dennis Wise was in trouble with the law while a Chelsea player

Morris, as opposed to Terry, is a player on the periphery of the side, despite his evident talent.

Since storming into the Chelsea first team and matching the achievements of a host of international team-mates, he has drifted out of the limelight.

His performances each season have dropped and he is now no more than a fringe player.

In the press, Ranieri has tried to maintain Morris' importance, but that is not backed up when the manager names his team.

Parallels with Leeds

Whether the high-profile court case will be as damaging to Chelsea as it was for Leeds is difficult to know.

Coverage of the trial has not come close to that of Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer but it is publicity Chelsea could well do without.

The parallels with the Leeds case are actually quite remarkable.

Leeds were similarly aiming for Champions League football, and were also struggling under a mountain of debt.

Bowyer and Woodgate even occupy the same positions on the field as their Chelsea counterparts.

While Bowyer appeared unaffected by the attention surrounding his court case, Woodgate lost his form completely and dropped out of the side.

But David O'Leary, who lost his job as Leeds manager in the summer because of poor results in the second half of the season, felt it was the off-field pressures which affected the club the most.

He recently told the BBC he believed Leeds would have won the Premiership last year had it not been for the case.

Now Chelsea must beware the same problems.

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