EXCLUSIVE: Blues line up Mancienne to mark Barcelona wizard Messi
21 April 2009 10:39
Nou kid on the block: Chelsea are testing Mancienne for a daunting role
Michael Mancienne has auditioned for the chance to mark Lionel Messi in the Nou Camp next week as Guus Hiddink contemplated a spectacular Champions League gamble.
Chelsea's interim coach was at Griffin Park on Monday night to watch Mancienne play at left back in a 2-2 reserve team draw against West Bromwich.
Mancienne said: 'It was a new one on me, I've never really played there before. I would love the challenge of facing Messi. The manager came to watch and I was asked to have a go. The manager is keeping his options open.'
Hiddink had intended to give Mancienne - who has first-team starts and one appearance off the bench, against Juventus in the Champions League - and Ricardo Carvalho 45 minutes each at left back to prove they can keep one of the world's best players quiet when they meet Barcelona.
Carvalho, axed for the FA Cup semi-final victory over Arsenal at Wembley last Saturday, began last night at centre half but Hiddink had to abandon his plans when he was forced off with an injury at the break.
Mancienne, 21, who began the season on loan at Wolves and was called up by England earlier in the season, is a central defender but has played at right back for England Under 21s, as well as Chelsea's first team.
He played the whole of last night's game at left back. Ashley Cole, who is returning to the form that once saw him regarded as the world's best left back, is suspended for the first leg of the semi-final against Barca.
Mancienne told Chelsea TV: 'They told me a couple of days ago I would have a goat left back and I did ask Ashley a few questions about it. It felt all right.'
Chelsea can certainly expect a greater test in the semi-final than that provided by WestBromwich winger Josh Knight, who was unaware that he was standing in for Messi aspart of Hiddink's Champions League plans.
Cole will miss the first leg after being booked against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge last week and Chelsea's interim coach is searching for a solution.
Juliano Belletti, who played right back in the first half on Monday night, appeared to be the obvious candidate to face his old team next week.