Chelsea are 'trying to break me mentally', claims Malouda after being frozen out at Stamford Bridge
22:32 GMT, 11 February 2013
08:16 GMT, 12 February 2013
Not happy: Florent Malouda has hit out at Chelsea
Florent Malouda has launched an astonishing attack on Chelsea, claiming the club are trying to ‘break him mentally’ by forcing him to train with academy players.
The France midfielder has hit out after being excluded from the 25-man Premier League squad all season and forbidden from even changing with the first team at their Cobham training ground.
Malouda, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has been banished since a move to North America collapsed last summer.
‘The details I’ll explain when I’m free,’ Malouda, 32, told newspaper France-Guyane.
the strategy they use is to make me look like a player seeking
substantial compensation. If you are excluded for one year, it is very,
'You must be armed mentally. All this is done to break me
mentally, but in reality it motivates me enormously.’
Meanwhile, Rafael Benitez believes his squad – the majority of whom won the Champions League last May – will realise how important the Europa League is when they arrive in Prague on Wednesday.
Chelsea play Sparta Prague in the last 32 tie first leg on Thursday evening, with Benitez admitting it will take an adjustment for players used to plying their trade in Europe's premier club competition.
'We will need some time (to talk),' said Benitez, who replaced Roberto Di Matteo in November after the holders were knocked out of the Champions League.
Happier times: Malouda (second from right) trains with his Chelsea team-mates
'In terms of flights and games it's like the Champions League, in terms of mentality, the first thought is “hmm, it's different”. But if you see the teams that are in the Europa League, you will see it could be quite difficult.
'The day before we will fly, we will be there, they will realise it's Europe and they can concentrate 100 per cent. I'm expecting that they will be focused. We will have to start thinking of it as a great competition, with good teams and we will try to do our best.'
The Europa League is one of two trophies Chelsea can realistically still win this term; they began the season in contention for seven. They sit third, 16 points behind leaders Manchester United with 12 games to play in the Barclays Premier League, but remain in the FA Cup.
The next four matches are key for Chelsea's season and could lift the mood at Stamford Bridge, by changing perceptions of Benitez's reign, which has been unpopular from the start.
On a roll: Chelsea head to Sparta Prague this week for their Europa League clash
Should Chelsea advance to the Europa League last 16, at the expense of Sparta Prague, beat Brentford in the FA Cup fourth round replay and win at Manchester City, cutting the deficit to the second-placed Premier League champions to one point, Benitez will be able to demonstrate progress.
Benitez is unfazed at the prospect of regular Thursday and Sunday fixtures which Europa League progress dictates, although it does limit the amount of time he has to work with his squad.
'Two games a week we can manage, if we have enough bodies,' added the Spaniard, who won the UEFA Cup with Valencia and Champions League with Liverpool. 'Normally when you want to improve your team tactically, you push them. But in this situation you can't because if you push them too much they will be tired. The balance is quite difficult.
'The day after a game you have a light training session. The second day is before the game, so you have a light training session. Then you have to play. That means when you try to do your tactical adjustments, your preparation, you cannot do too much.'