Ranieri sets deadline
By Steve Luckings
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The draw for the matches is made on Friday and the likeable Italian wants to add to his £30 million-plus worth of purchases before sending his troops into battle for August 13.
However, Ranieri's deadline is even more urgent as August 7 is the deadline for clubs to register players for the Champions League so the former Valencia boss will have to move quick if he is to bring in any new additions.
New Blues owner Roman Abramovich's has proved he is willing to back Ranieri in the transfer market by funding the transfers of Glen Johnson, Geremi, Damien Duff and Wayne Bridge.
It is a far cry from a few weeks ago when uncertainty surrounded the coach's future at the club when England boss Sven Goran Eriksson was pictured leaving Abramovich's house, suggesting the Swede was set to take over the reigns with the Russian tycoon wanting to bring in his own man.
The Financial Services Authority announcement that they are to investigate Chelsea Village shares prior to Abramovich's takeover is unlikely to hinder the West London club should they wish to make more purchases and Ranieri will get another chance to see if his new signings can blend with the existing players on Friday when they face a Malaysia XI in the FA Premier League Asia Cup.
"I have signed my good young players, now I have to sign my champion players," said the former Atletico Madrid coach.
"It is not important to buy a big name, I do not mean champion like this, just good players.
"What I like is the player with good motivation, strong.
"We have to make up a 20-point gap on Manchester United to win the league.
"Last season they had 87 points and Chelsea 67, so we need motivated players.
"It is our target. You can buy everybody in the world, it won't matter unless the team is successful. The pitch speaks. The pitch is the truth.
"The new players coming in must blend with those here, I want all my players in place by the time we return from Malaysia."
Ranieri admits he needs more cover in central midfield, with Emmanuel Petit still recovering from groin surgery, which could prompt the Stamford Bridge outfit to step up their efforts to land Manchester United's Juan Sebastian Veron, after the Argentine admitted on Thursday he was unsure if the club wished to keep him any longer.
"At this moment I have just Frank Lampard. I need one there," he added.
"Veron is a big champion, but there are others. We need these two more players. There is the Premiership, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup but right now my focus is the Champions League on August 13."
In other news, The Premiership's big spenders have offered a trial to non-League Bedford Town striker and former England schoolboy international Drew Roberts.
Bedford boss and former Chelsea favourite Kevin Wilson believes Roberts has what it takes to succeed: "Drew has been given a chance and I'm happy for him.
"It will be a great chance for him, he has the talent to make it."