Ancelotti: Anelka wants to stay
Carlo Ancelotti has insisted Nicolas Anelka is staying at Chelsea, rejecting suggestions the France striker will quit the club following speculation that talks over a new contract have stalled.
The 30-year-old has just 18 months left on his existing contract, and the Blues are keen to tie him down to a long-term deal. But while it is understood the two parties are far from close to an agreement, Ancelotti revealed the player has already told him that he wants to stay at the club.
"I think that they are speaking with his agent and they will try to find the right solution for both the club and for him," said the Italian. "I'm confident he'll sign. Anelka is a top player and this club needs to have a lot of top players.
"And so, it's the same question with Joe Cole. We want to keep him and he wants to stay. There will be a resolution. Anelka has told me he wants to stay. He's happy with me. He's happy to work with me, and I'm very happy to work with him. That's a wedding, no? We don't want to break up."
Hope for Cole
Ancelotti also insisted that Joe Cole still has time to force his way into Fabio Capello's England squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. However, the former AC Milan coach believes the attacking midfielder must improve his work with the ball after recalling him into the side to face Birmingham City at Stamford Bride tomorrow.
Cole's contract expires in the summer but the player's representatives continue to have dialogue with the club. His participation at South Africa 2010 is, nevertheless, looking particularly vulnerable.
Cole has fought his way back to fitness after a serious knee injury, but is yet to hold down a regular place in the Chelsea side. He started on the bench for the FA Cup fourth round tie against Preston North End at the weekend, but he will play against City.
Ancelotti thinks he can still convince Capello to take him. "It's not too late for him," said the Blues manager. "There are a lot of games until the end of the season and he has the time to show his quality.
"I think that he's doing well. The last game against Sunderland he did very well without the ball, moved very well. He has to improve when he has the ball. He has the quality to do better when he has the ball. But he has the time. Fabio has not asked me about him. I haven't spoken to Capello."
Battle of the Blues
Chelsea face a difficult encounter against Alex McLeish's in-form Birmingham. The West Midland's side have gone 15 games unbeaten in all competitions and held their forthcoming opponents to a goalless draw on Boxing Day, becoming the only team to prevent Ancelotti's side from scoring so far this season.
"It will be a very difficult game," admitted the Italian. "It depends on us. If we do our best tomorrow, I think we can win. But it will be more difficult, with respect, than the last few games because we play against a team with a lot of defensive quality. In the defensive positions, they are very good.
"We need three more points but they have not lost for 15 games and are having an unbelievable season. They have done fantastically well. So it's important for us to have a very good performance.
"The same as we did against Sunderland, we hope, because we play a very compact team. It's important to move the ball quickly against them because they are able to stay compact for 90 minutes. This will be the difficulty of this game."
Belletti, who limped out of the Preston game, will not require surgery on his damaged knee and should be back inside a month. Frank Lampard, who damaged a calf in the same game, is fit but Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, expected back from the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cup on Wednesday, will not be risked.
"We had questions over Lampard, but he trained today and he will be ready to play tomorrow," confirmed Ancelotti. "So we have out Belletti - he had a scan yesterday and won't need to have surgery. "