Monday, March 22, 2010


Carlo Ancelotti admits Manchester United are now the favourites to win the title after Chelsea slipped up again.

Days after being knocked out of the Champions League to Inter Milan, Ancelotti's Blues saw their Premier League hopes dented by Sam Allardyce's plucky Blackburn.

El-Hadji Diouf headed Rovers level in the second half after the visitors had failed to build on the early lead given them by Didier Drogba's 28th goal of the season.

And it means Chelsea are outside the top two for the first time since August and lie four points behind United - although they still have a game in hand.

Ancelotti admits his team have made it much more difficult for themselves and knows only a win will be enough when they travel to Portsmouth on Wednesday night.

The Italian was asked whether he felt United now had the advantage.

And he said: "They are top of the league now, so yes. We know we have to do better than this.

"We now have less probability of winning the title. We have made it more difficult for ourselves now - although it is not impossible. I still think we can do it.

"We still have the ability to win this title but we have to be at our best. What we have to do now is stay as close to Manchester United as possible so that's why our game at Portsmouth on Wednesday is so important."

Ancelotti admitted this was his worst week since taking charge at Stamford Bridge - but admitted his players are struggling to recover from their humbling by Manchester City last month.

They were particularly disappointing in the second half after looking likely to breeze past Rovers in a dominant first-half show.

The Stamford Bridge boss said: "Yes, it's been a hard week but we have to start preparing for the next games which we need to win.

"The difficult moment started against Manchester City. It's a difficult moment in our season.

"We don't have to lose our confidence but we are behind now. The pressure was that we needed to win this game and we didn't do it. It's more difficult now.

"We have to win games now - that's the only solution to go forward.

"We need to work together and stay compact. We need to prepare well for the next game.

"I don't know how many points we will need to win the title.

"All I know is that we have to win on Wednesday. We have to prepare well for every game and look forward."

One consolation for Ancelotti is that both title rivals United and Arsenal still have to come to Ewood Park to face a Blackburn side who are tough to beat on their own patch. He said: "This is a very difficult place to come. At home they are a very strong team.

"Every team will find it difficult to come here.

"The second half was more difficult for us. We lost a bit of composure and conceded a goal.

"After that we came back but it was too late.

"I'm disappointed because we lost two important points.

"I don't know if there was a hangover from Wednesday against Inter but we prepared very well.

"We tried to win this game to cancel out the game against Inter.

"For an hour we did well but it's not an easy moment for us."

Ancelotti hopes to have both Petr Cech and Michael Ballack available for the trip to Fratton Park - but he faces an anxious wait on Branislav Ivanovic.

The Serbian defender suffered a knee injury following a challenge from Diouf and is likely to need a scan on the problem to determine the extent today.

Ancelotti said: "Ivanovic has a knee injury and we will see on Monday.

"Then we'll have a clearer idea of his injury. You have to be worried but you have to recover quickly.

"Hopefully Petr will be ready for Wednesday. Ballack had a problem with his tendon so should be ready as well.

"We have the quality to push up and look forward to the next game with confidence."

Rovers boss Allardyce tipped Chelsea to do the Double on the eve of the game and does not necessarily think this is the end of their chances.

And he handed Ancelotti a boost by promising to give United and Arsenal just as tough a test when they visit Ewood before the end of the campaign.

He said: "We've only lost twice here all season and we're very proud of that.

"We want to keep that going over the rest of the season.

"Hopefully we can have a big effect on the title by taking points off some more of the big boys between now and the end of the season."

One more bright point for Ancelotti was the fact this was the first time Chelsea have worn their navy away kit in a competitive fixture - and not lost.

SunSport revealed in December how the hooped shirts were cursed after four defeats out of four - to Aston Villa, Wigan, Blackburn in the Carling Cup and Manchester City.

Yesterday was the first time they have dared to don the hoodoo strip since. Maybe a point was not so bad after all.

***The Sun


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