Tuesday 20 February 2018

‘The title is in our hands. I don’t have to feel pressure now’

Sam Wallace

CARLO ANCELOTTI said yesterday that his team were ready to beat Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday after they put their Premier League title bid back on track with a 7-0 destruction of Stoke City to go back to the top of the table with two games remaining.

The crucial match will come on Sunday, when Ancelotti’s team must win at Anfield to be sure of going into their last game against Wigan ahead of Manchester United and with the destiny of the title in their own hands.

Alex Ferguson’s team, who beat Tottenham on Saturday, play Sunderland on Sunday with the title race promising to go to the final weekend.

Yesterday, Ancelotti praised his team for responding to their defeat at White Hart Lane last week with seven goals – including a hat-trick for Salomon Kalou and two for Frank Lampard. Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda scored the other two, and Stoke manager Tony Pulis admitted that his team “were lucky to get nil”.

The scale of Chelsea’s victory means that their goal difference is now eight better than that of United, whom they lead by a point. They are just five goals away from beating United’s Premier League record of 97 goals in a season – set in 1999-2000.

Ancelotti said that the pressure was all on Ferguson and he had been so relaxed on Sunday that he had gone for a walk in the park instead of watching United play Spurs.

Ancelotti said: “The most important thing is that the title is in our hands. I don’t know why I have to feel pressure now. Our destiny is in our hands, so now I am quiet and calm.

(Immediately) before every game you have pressure. That is normal, our job. We have scored a lot of goals this season in the Premier League. But it won’t come down to goal difference to decide it. One of us will finish with more points.

“It will be very difficult at Liverpool. But it is in our hands. Liverpool are a fantastic team still going for fourth place, and we are going for first place. I agree, it’s ours to lose. But that’s a good thing. To have a title in our own hands is a good thing.

“We don’t need to send a message to the other teams. This is a good message for us. We needed a good reaction after the defeat at Tottenham, and we have that. This is a good message for us. I’d prefer to have kept two or three goals for next week. I missed telling my players this.”

Chelsea also had Ashley Cole back for the first time since he broke his ankle in February. Lampard said that Chelsea had to win their last two games against Liverpool and Wigan.

“It (Liverpool) will be a tough game because they want to finish strongly,” he said. “We have two tough games to come. The game at Liverpool is definitely going to be tough. They’ll want to give it everything. But it’s there to be won.”

Stoke lost goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen with a dislocated elbow in the first half that might yet rule the Danish international out of this summer’s World Cup finals if it does not respond to treatment.

Pulis said: “We’ve just got murdered. We were lucky to get nil, we were that poor. Chelsea’s game at Liverpool will decide the Premiership.

It’s just disappointing for us. We’ve trained well and done all right this week, but we had five or six players well off it. That was the first time we’ve been beaten away in the league this year, but if you’re carrying six players you’ll struggle against a third division team.”

Stoke’s day was not helped by striker Dave Kitson swearing at the bench and walking straight down the tunnel when he was substituted in the second half. Pulis said: “Bit of a disease (at Stoke). Tuncay’s done that as well (in the past), so we’ll have a word about it.”

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