Tuesday 23 January 2018

Ancelotti lifts Blues for party with City knocking at the door

Amy Lawrence

Carlo Ancelotti has urged his players to cure any World Cup hangovers by returning to the cocktail that won them the double in May. None of the members of Chelsea's squad had a tournament to cherish -- most returned from South Africa with their spirits dented, none more so than the embarrassed English and French contingents.

"I think we have to put our minds back to the end of last season," said Ancelotti as he welcomed the last of his international players back to Cobham last week. "Our season was very good and we had a lot of celebration, and now we have to rediscover that. The World Cup was a different story for them and we have to create a good atmosphere now."

From what he has seen on the pre-season pitches, he is confident his team will click back into gear. "They've had to work very hard to improve their condition and I didn't find any problems."

Ancelotti is conscious that emulating their success of last season, particularly after a summer short of rest and relaxation for the bulk of the squad, is a challenging task. "To win more trophies than last season will be difficult," he said.

"Everyone expects us to do our best but it's very difficult in football to repeat. We have the same aim as last year, to stay in competitions. But last year we went out of the Champions League too early so we have to do better."

On the home front, the Italian believes that the Premier League will be even tougher, mainly due to the strengthening done by Manchester City. "It will be more open this year because they have had a fantastic summer in the transfer market. They have bought some fantastic players. In theory, Man City could be very difficult opponents. It's difficult to build a team in one summer but Roberto Mancini has the experience to do this, so it can be done."

As for Liverpool, who are expected to push back towards the top four under their new coach, Roy Hodgson, Ancelotti was amused by Joe Cole's assessment that his new club are the biggest in England. "That's his opinion but I don't think it's a reality," he quipped. "Liverpool is a fantastic club with a fantastic history and tradition, but it's normal for a player to say things like that when he joins a new club."

Chelsea are in Germany for a short tour, and it demonstrates how hard it is to integrate World Cup players into a truncated pre-season that they will be used for 45 minutes at most this weekend -- with two weeks to go until the Premier League kicks off. Of the injured players, the goalkeeper Petr Cech, the defender Alex and the Ivory Coast

striker Didier Drogba will be back in contention for the Community Shield next weekend.

Ancelotti remains coy about the prospects of adding to his squad. He is pleased with what he has seen so far of Yossi Benayoun, whose versatility he intends to maximise. "He's a very intelligent player," said the Italian.

"He has always played as a winger but in the next game I will try to put him as a midfielder in the centre. As a team we have the same potential as last year, but it is possible we will improve."

Sunday Independent

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