Carlo Ancelotti insists Chelsea will use Sunday’s crucial London derby at Tottenham to show they can emerge unscathed from the woeful run that threatens to ruin their defence of the Premier League title.
Ancelotti has presided over the worst run of results since Blues owner Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 and Chelsea are in danger of being cast adrift in the title race unless they can end that dismal sequence of four defeats in eight matches.
The champions have slipped to third place and trail leaders Arsenal by two points going into a three-game stretch that Ancelotti admits will define their season.
After the trip to in-form Tottenham, the Blues host Manchester United and then take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
That would be a testing sequence at any time, let alone during Chelsea’s current crisis, yet Ancelotti takes heart from the way he survived a similar run during his time at AC Milan.
“I had this difficult moment in 2003,” Ancelotti said. “We didn’t start well, we lost the top of the table, the fight for the title. But I managed to maintain my job and we won the Champions League.
“A bad moment is the same in Italy or England. I know how to manage my team.”
From the brutal dismissal of his assistant, Ray Wilkins, Frank Lampard’s long spell on the sidelines due to injury, Didier Drogba going through a barren run in front of goal and John Terry and his defenders struggling to keep clean sheets, it must seem to Ancelotti that he has been beset by a new problem every day.
And, despite his claims that he still has Abramovich’s complete support, Ancelotti must be aware that more poor results will leave his job under threat given his employer’s habit of sacking managers at a moment’s notice.
Publicly at least, Ancelotti shows few signs of being affected by the pressure and he cut a relaxed figure as he called on his squad to show they have the character to fight through their problems and get back on track.
“At this moment, experience, personality and character are the most important qualities. Everyone can do more to help the team to move on, not just the most important players,” Ancelotti said.
“At this moment you die or you improve your relationships and show character. That is what happened last year after we lost to Inter Milan in the Champions League.
“We could have had a bad season but we improved our relationships. After that we were better as a team.
“It is the little details that can change this moment. We have to search and work on it and not wait for it to arrive from heaven.”
While Ancelotti tries to restore Chelsea’s equilibrium, his Tottenham counterpart, Harry Redknapp, is savouring the best season of his life.
Redknapp has assembled a squad good enough to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners ahead of holders Inter Milan and his team’s brand of attacking football makes them a daunting proposition for any opponent, as well as earning him a place on the English FA’s list of long-term replacements for Fabio Capello.
Although Redknapp will be without influential Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart due to a hamstring injury, the confidence surging through Spurs at present is perfectly summed up by Heurelho Gomes’s assessment of the fixture.
Brazilian goalkeeper Gomes is convinced Spurs, who are on a seven-game unbeaten run, can repeat last season’s 2-1 win over the Blues and he said: “I think we can do it again against them.
“We need to press them — like we did last season. I think they are inconsistent at the moment but we need to be careful against them. They are still a great side.” — Sapa-AFP