Tuesday 21 February 2017

Ancelotti insists strongest combination can unlock Fulham

Chris Hatherall

Published 14/02/2011 | 05:00

Carlo Ancelotti believes his Chelsea squad is now at its strongest this season as he prepares to name new signings Fernando Torres and David Luiz in the same team for the first time at Fulham this evening determined to regain fourth place in the Premier League.

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The pair, who cost a combined £75m on transfer deadline day, join a side also boosted by the return of £18m midfielder Ramires from injury and by news that defender Branislav Ivanovic has signed a five-and-a-half-year contract.

Ancelotti's biggest problem is how to cram all his top talent into only 11 places, but he remains determined that Torres and fellow strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka will all line up at Craven Cottage following intensive work on a new formation that was so heavily criticised eight days ago when Chelsea lost to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

"I'm happy because now we have a strong squad," Ancelotti said. "With David Luiz and Torres, we've improved our ability and we have more power. The squad was good, but now it is even better.

"This week Ramires has recovered and is able to play so we have a lot of options, he is improving game by game because he takes more confidence on his play and combinations with the other players so it will be good to have him back.

"In attack we can choose whether to play with two up front or with the Christmas tree, it depends on the game that we want to play.

"When we play with two strikers Nicolas Anelka can be in the No 10 position, in the hole, but with one striker he can play on the right. Florent Malouda can also play there, and last year we tried (Frank) Lampard."

Chelsea's strength in attack is highlighted by their willingness to allow Daniel Sturridge to leave the club on loan, especially as the striker has now scored three times in three games at Bolton, including one in yesterday's victory over Everton.

However, Chelsea are equally strong in defence with Alex on the way back from injury, Luiz set to play today and Ivanovic committed to the club.

Ancelotti continued: "We are very happy because Ivanovic has signed a new contract and with David Luiz, and Alex, he is young. We will not have a problem in the centre of defence in the future."

Even so, Ancelotti has been grateful for extra time to work on tactics ahead of a west London derby that is crucial for Chelsea after Tottenham leapfrogged them into fourth place with a victory at Sunderland over the weekend.

"It is perfect to be able to play on Monday," he said. "The players have more time for recovery and can prepare for Fulham, which will not be easy because I think Fulham now are having their best moment of the season."

Fuham, in fact, are looking to win their sixth match in succession at Craven Cottage and midfielder Simon Davies says confidence is high.

"After a mixed start to the season things have really picked up," he insisted. "Since the win at Stoke we've gone from strength to strength and we haven't looked back."

Fulham go into the match without injured Dickson Etuhu and the game comes too soon for Bobby Zamora, close to a comeback after long-term injury.

Chelsea, meanwhile, will give a late fitness test to Jose Bosingwa, who has a knee problem and could use Ivanovic at right-back instead. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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