Ancelotti defiant in face of growing pressure
CARLO ANCELOTTI is convinced his job is safe even if Chelsea fail to win a trophy this season and has also claimed that he can rewrite the club's recent history of managerial instability.
The future of Ancelotti has been put firmly under the spotlight after a week in which Chelsea were eliminated from the Champions League by Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan and then leapfrogged at the top of the Premier League table by Manchester United and Arsenal.
Roman Abramovich's track record suggests that a Chelsea manager needs to win either the Premier League or Champions League to survive, yet Ancelotti, whose contract expires in 2012, is bullish. "To win or to lose; that doesn't mean anything with (my) contract," he said. "I have a very good relationship with the club and with Roman. My position is not in discussion."
Asked if his future was with Chelsea next season, he added: "I can confirm -- I have two more years of contract."
The security of a contract meant little for some of his successors, with Mourinho departing despite winning five trophies in three seasons and Avram Grant losing his job after reaching the Champions League final and finishing second in the Premier League.
"I am here to change the history of this club," replied Ancelotti. "Grant was the past -- now there is a present. I think the owner is thinking what I think: to win the Premier League and to win the FA Cup."
For all Ancelotti's confidence, it is understood that Abramovich believes his manager needs to show stronger leadership and improve the discipline of the players on and off the field. The suggestion that he should be sterner, however, was met yesterday with a denial.
"No, it's not true," said Ancelotti. "I always said I want to give respect to my players. I think that, this season, everything is right with the players."
Ancelotti did concede that he was enduring the most challenging period since his arrival in England. "It's the most difficult moment of the season," he said. "We have to end it immediately."
Ancelotti also set his Chelsea players a target, predicting that 86 points would be enough to win the title. It means they can afford to drop only three more points, with the Italian insisting that they must not lose against Manchester United.
Chelsea might wish to focus exclusively on those remaining matches, yet the issue of Joe Cole's future remains unresolved, with Ancelotti having recommended a new contract while accepting that the final decision will rest with the board. The winger has claimed there is no offer on the table.
Chelsea will face a former manager in Grant tonight at Portsmouth, with Ancelotti boosted by the return of goalkeeper Petr Cech. Henrique Hilario will be fit for Saturday's match against Aston Villa, while Ashley Cole should resume full training in two weeks' time.
Injuries mean that Tal Ben-Haim, John Utaka, Hassan Yebda and Kevin-Prince Boateng are unavailable for Portsmouth, while Aruna Dindane will not play again for the club unless his loan deal from Lens can be renegotiated.
Portsmouth's administrator, Andrew Andronikou, has promised that no other players will be sold or prevented from playing in the forthcoming FA Cup semi-final, against either Tottenham or Fulham, for financial reasons. (© Daily Telegraph, London)