Ancelotti wants more from Drogba
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has shrugged off any injury concerns over Didier Drogba ahead of a another round of crunch fixtures in the race for the Premier League title. Drogba limped off the field after scoring twice in Chelsea's 5-0 demolition of Portsmouth last night, but Ancelotti expects him to be fit to face Aston Villa on Saturday.
"It is a very important season for Drogba, a fantastic striker, but I am looking at what he can do in the next nine games. I hope he hasn't finished scoring," Ancelotti said as he looks forward to the remaining seven league games and what he hopes add up to two more FA Cup appearances. "There are eight or nine games until the end of the season and we need to maintain this spirit. We have to prepare for these nine games like a final."
Saturday sees all three title hopefuls in action. Arsenal travel to Birmingham, also at 3pm, while Manchester United play at Bolton in the evening fixture. By the time that game kicks off, Chelsea will hope to be back at the top of the table, even if only briefly.
United could have dropped to third if Arsenal also win as only two points separate the top three teams. The Gunners are hoping for good news on the injury front as they prepare to go to St Andrew's.
Arsene Wenger is confident that Nicklas Bendtner will be fit after taking a knock to the ankle last weekend, but he has not trained this week. "He should be okay," Wenger said. "He is not back in training yet because he has an ankle problem, but he will have a late test tomorrow morning and should be available. I have not picked the team yet, but I expect him to be available. William Gallas is nearing a return from a calf injury, but will not be back in time to fill in for the suspended Thomas Vermaelen.
United could be in need of all three points by the time their match kicks off, but Bolton boss Owen Coyle is in no mood to do them any favours, and believes the defensive improvements his side have made will cause the champions problems,
"When I came into the club, we didn't have any shut-outs in the Premier League and now we have managed to put five together," he said. "And of the 13 games that we have played, eight of those have been away from home. Come Saturday we will look to pick the best team available and one which we feel can go and win the game."
At the other end of the table, all eyes will be on Upton Park where embattled West Ham face Stoke. A midweek 3-1 home loss to Wolves - their fifth successive defeat - has left the club in something of a crisis, with the club's owners David Gold and David Sullivan urging the fans to get behind Gianfranco Zola as many call for him to be sacked.
Sullivan has insisted that will not happen, even with the club only three points clear of the drop zone. "We're 100 per cent behind the manager," Sullivan said in the Guardian. "There will be no changes. We all had a chat with him after the game to see how he felt about things.
"We realise the performance was absolutely appalling. We can't play like that again, and I'm sure the manager will be making changes for Saturday and I'm sure it will be a much better performance."
Burnley and Hull are both in the drop zone, three points behind the Hammers. Hull host Fulham on Saturday, while Burnley are at home to local rivals Blackburn at lunchtime on Sunday. The win for Wolves has given them much-needed breathing space ahead of their match at home to Everton on Saturday.
The battle for fourth place dominates the other three fixtures. Tottenham hold the position at present and can extend their advantage to four points by beating troubled Portsmouth on Saturday. Manchester City, who blew the chance to go above them by losing to Everton last night, would need to wait more than 48 hours to respond as they do not face Wigan until Monday night.
Liverpool need to beat Sunderland on Sunday to get their faltering challenge for UEFA Champions League football back on track.