Ancelotti talks title race, hails Ramires
Chelsea's players begin their Premier League title defence today with a stark warning from manager Carlo Ancelotti that they will have to work much harder than last year if they are to hold on to their crown. The Blues welcome Roberto Di Matteo's West Bromwich Albion to Stamford Bridge in this afternoon's late game as they look to build on the domestic double the Italian achieved in his first season at the helm.
The 2010/11 race for glory appears set to be one of the most open in years. Tottenham Hotspur will be brimming with confidence after they broke the monopoly of the 'big four' by finishing fourth last season, while Arsenal and Liverpool have both made good acquisitions this summer. Manchester United beat Chelsea 3-1 in the Community Shield last weekend, while their neighbours City look strong after their summer spending spree to which Mario Balotelli was added last night.
"It will be more difficult to win the title this year," said Ancelotti. "It is not enough to be like last year - we will need to work harder. "Manchester United will be our biggest rivals. They have quality, tradition and history, but I know that we have to pay attention to the other teams.
"Arsenal bought a fantastic striker in [Marouane] Chamakh, Liverpool have a new manager, they could be a strong opponent, and we have to look at Manchester City because they bought a lot of good players and they have to build a team. They could be involved in the title race."
Chelsea's bid was boosted by the signing of Brazil midfielder Ramires from Benfica last night. The 23-year-old has joined on a four-year contract, having received a work permit and passed a medical.
The Blues are thought to have paid £18.2m for the energetic and versatile midfielder. Ancelotti has predicted a bright future for the 23-year-old, who represented his country at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
"He is a fantastic player," Ancelotti enthused. "He will be the future of the Brazil national team and I hope he will be the future of Chelsea.
"He won't have any problems adapting to the English game because he is not Brazilian 100 per cent, because usually a Brazilian doesn't like to run. He likes to play football. He is a runner."
Ancelotti was hit by the departure of Ricardo Carvalho to Real Madrid this week. The Portuguese defender had come to an agreement with the club a year ago to let him move on this summer, much to his former manager's dismay.
"Everyone was disappointed Carvalho left because Carvalho did very well for six years at the club," said Ancelotti. "His desire was to leave this club to try new emotion, new experience."
Carvalho's departure does not mean that Ancelotti will be making a move to sign a replacement, though, effectively quashing any rumours linking the club with Benfica's David Luiz. "As a centre-back, we have [John] Terry, [Branislav] Ivanovic, Alex and [Jeffrey] Bruma," explained the 51-year-old. "We are ok. We do not need anyone else."