Ancelotti keeps faith in Blues' golden oldies
CHELSEA manager Carlo Ancelotti has given the clearest indication yet that he will retain faith with his ageing core of players next season.
With the club on the brink of the first league and FA Cup double in their history, Ancelotti believes that this current group have answered questions about their collective age and does not foresee any need for a significant summer spending spree.
"I don't think it's necessary for us to spend a lot of money," he said. "I said at the start of the season that I was happy to have these players."
Ancelotti has already recommended that Joe Cole's contract be extended while Michael Ballack, Nicolas Anelka, Juliano Belletti and Deco will also hold negotiations this summer. Chelsea have expressed interest in Franck Ribery and Sergio Aguero, yet there is a feeling that neither is worth the sort of fee being demanded.
With a four-point lead over Manchester United with four games to go, Chelsea are overwhelming favourites to win a third title in six years, although captain John Terry did admit that nerves were evident in the midweek win over Bolton.
Ancelotti, however, clearly regards complacency as the biggest danger. Despite their commanding position, the Italian stressed the threat that would be presented at White Hart Lane today by Tottenham and claimed that no one at the club was even talking about the double. He also said that Harry Redknapp has a squad who could compete with Chelsea for the Premier League title next season.
"We never speak about the double; that's not the right way to prepare at all," said Ancelotti. "Tottenham haven't played with consistency, but have played football with very good quality. They could challenge next season.
"We need the same performance against Tottenham as we produced against Manchester United. A draw wouldn't be a good result."
Despite Ancelotti's caution, the sense of gathering momentum at Chelsea was further enhanced yesterday by confirmation that both Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic would return to the squad today. Cole is likely to be among the substitutes but may well play for the reserves next week in an effort to build match fitness.
Ancelotti will start today with Joe Cole, Florent Malouda and Deco, meaning he is again likely to choose between Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba as the main central striker.
It has also emerged that Drogba may need an operation for his hernia. "He'll take a decision at the end of the season," said Ancelotti.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have confirmed that they will take legal action against Barcelona president Juan Laporta after it was alleged that, in 2004, he and current presidential candidate Sandro Rosell were offered a cut in any deal for Ronaldinho.
The allegation was made in Laporta's autobiography, but has been dismissed by Chelsea and Rosell, who is also expected to take legal action. Chelsea deny even making an offer for Ronaldinho. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Tottenham v Chelsea,
Live, ESPN, 5.30