Ancelotti trumpets faith in Chelsea's attacking identity
CARLO Ancelotti lost his bearings driving to Stamford Bridge for yesterday's press conference. He took a wrong turn inside the ground in his black Mercedes while puffing on a cigarette, and as he turned his car around he was mobbed by Italians trying to take his photo on their mobile phones and had to abandon his car outside an entrance to the club's offices. His team need to show a better sense of direction tonight.
The visit of Jose Mourinho's Internazionale provides Ancelotti with the opportunity to claim a marquee victory over the club's former manager. If Chelsea succeed in reversing the 2-1 defeat suffered in the first leg, it would quickly become one of the great European nights in Stamford Bridge history.
The contest also gives him a chance to prove that he has made a lasting impact on this group of international players, most of whom played with distinction under Mourinho.
Ancelotti chose the eve of Mourinho's comeback to declare that Chelsea is now a team that he has successfully fashioned in the image of owner Roman Abramovich. One of the reasons Chelsea's Russian owner sacked the Special One in September 2007 was because the team were too dull and predictable, concerned only with winning with scant regard for the niceties of the game.
Ancelotti was charged in the summer with adding more style to Chelsea's game, a challenge the Italian believes he has met already.
"We have changed some things and I think now this team has an identity," he said yesterday. "Our identity is to play football, to keep possession, to play attacking football, to keep control of the game with possession of the ball. Roman wants to see the team in his identity and you have to ask him if that is the case. But I think the team now is playing with his identity."
Ancelotti's claim is backed up by the facts. His team has scored on average 2.38 goals per Premier League game, compared to an average of 1.79 goals per game under Mourinho.
Chelsea have only failed to score once in the 44 games they have played so far this season. Not surprisingly perhaps they are also leaking more goals than they have done for six seasons, but such is the price for attempting to become more entertaining.
Chelsea's defensive cause is not helped by having to play third-choice 'keeper Ross Turnbull, after injuries to both Petr Cech and Henrique Hilario. Ancelotti said: "Turnbull is a confident lad and we have confidence in him." Ashley Cole's broken ankle also means Yuri Zhirkov will start at left-back.
Despite the injuries, Ancelotti is confident the collective spirit he has been at pains to foster will best the top team in Serie A.
Inter have the advantage but Chelsea were the better team in the first leg in the San Siro three weeks ago and were unfortunate not to come away with at least a draw.
Ancelotti said: "We know we have to do our best. We have to show our best football, better organisation and better concentration. If we do that, we'll win. It'll be difficult because Inter are a very strong team, but if we do that we'll win."
Confident words from Ancelotti who refused to indulge in slinging any mud in Mourinho's direction. Florent Malouda, who joined Chelsea shortly before Mourinho was sacked, said the team are intent on making it an emotional return for Mourinho, but a wonderful victory for Ancelotti.
The Frenchman, who was outstanding in Saturday's 4-1 victory over West Ham, said: "We're not thinking about the history. We're trying to make history. What happened in the past, I would say, we don't care. We're just looking to win and go through. I hope it will be a great result for Chelsea." (© Independent News Service)