Essien expects to start at right back tonight


The Ghanaian midfielder’s inclusion as a full-back will provide energy and industry down the flank and allow Avram Grant to play Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack in midfield, with Claude Makelele anchoring in the centre in the familiar 4-3-3 formation.

Grant started work on the team’s shape at Chelsea’s training in Moscow last night and will choose between Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou to complement Didier Drogba and Joe Cole up front.

Malouda may well get the nod having been a regular in European competition this term, particularly away from home.

Essien also discloses that he will be the first player to opt out of taking a penalty for Chelsea if tonight’s Champions League final against Manchester United needs a shoot-out.

That is because his mother suffered a heart scare when he last took a spot-kick.

Essien revealed that his mother Aba suffered heart palpitations when he missed for Lyon in the 2005 Champions League quarter-final against PSV Eindhoven.

“When I missed my mum was rushed to hospital and I said after that I wouldn't take any more.”

His mother, who made a full recovery, will watch the final on television in his native Ghana after she applied too late for a visa.

Essien grew up in Ghana following Manchester United and he could have signed for Sir Alex Ferguson before Jose Mourinho took over at Chelsea.

He added: “I have no regrets about joining Chelsea instead. I used to like Roy Keane a lot and I met him when I went to United for a trial but I like my football at Chelsea.

“United deserved the title but the Champions League is the biggest of all. We deserve something this season and we have to win a trophy.”